Best of the West: Tornadoes, flooding slam South Dakota; feral hogs imperil Montana; farewell T. Boone Pickens

Numerous business suffered extensive damage from the tornadoes that struck this week in Sioux Falls, S.D. Photo: Argus Leader

The Western Governors' Association keeps you updated on news of the West. Here are the western stories for the week starting Sept. 9, 2019 that you don't want to miss.

The citizens of southeastern South Dakota are recovering from the damage inflicted by three tornadoes that roared through the state this week, while making evacuation plans for flooding by the Big Sioux River.

Three tornadoes packing winds of 130 mph hit Sioux Falls within four minutes of each other on Tuesday (Sept. 10). While the Argus Leader reports the tornadoes caused significant damage to businesses and more than 30 residences, only 8 citizens were injured, none seriously.

Learn the stories of citizens who survived the tornadoes ripping through their homes (The house just blew up) and see the damage from above in this drone footage. Gov. Kristi Noem visited the city to lend the state’s support.

Now residents of Sioux Falls are tracking what could be record-breaking levels on the Big Sioux River after heavy rainfall doused the region. As of Thursday morning, the river was five feet over flood stage above Dell Rapids, just north of Sioux Falls. Many southeastern South Dakota roads are already flooded (I-90 is closed between Mitchell and the junction of Highway 281) and no-travel advisories have been put in place. Learn more.

West is Best (as usual): Western communities ranked highly in the 24/7 Wall Street list of America's 50 Best Cities to Live. Seven western cities landed in the top 20, and 19 made the 50. The financial news outlet created the list by using a weighted index of statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau and other sources. Find out which cities in Texas, California, North Dakota, Arizona and Wyoming made the top 20, as well as the entire list.

Feral Hog Invasion: The Daily Inter Lake reports "large populations of feral hogs throughout Saskatchewan and Alberta have been encroaching on the Montana-Canada border, placing wildlife experts, farmers and others on edge." According to one expert: “If we were to design an invasive species that would do the most widespread damage, feral swine aren’t too far off from the perfect specimen.” Learn more and then watch the International Coordination on Feral Swine Management roundtable from a workshop of WGA’s Biosecurity and Invasive Species Initiative.

Broadband Benefits: When the Delta Montrose Electric Association in western Colorado began offering broadband a few years ago, a top priority was to deliver faster service to rural Delta County. Learn how that high-speed broadband service has boosted the local economy in this KUNC report. WGA hosted a roundtable (Connecting the Rural West) on expanded broadband deployment at our recent Annual Meeting.

RIP: As a 12-year-old paperboy in Oklahoma, T. Boone Pickens started with 28 customers but quadrupled his business by acquiring adjacent routes. “My first introduction to expanding quickly by acquisition," he said years later. The “Oracle of Oil” used that skill to amass a fortune in oil, gas and wind holdings (to name a few). Pickens, who died this week at age 91, also donated more than $1 billion in his life, including hundreds of millions to his alma mater, Oklahoma State University. Learn more about this iconic western.

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