PIERRE, S.D. — South Dakota students are used to extreme cold and having classes called off because of winter blizzards, but the weather that caused their school day to be cut short Wednesday was intense for a different reason: the triple-digit temperatures.
More than two dozen school districts across the state shut down early Wednesday as temperatures rose above 100 degrees, turning classrooms into saunas.
"The major factor in the decision is the safety and welfare of students and staff members. It's tough to learn in an environment when a room is 100 degrees," said Eureka Superintendent Bo Beck, whose north-central South Dakota district joined others in dismissing students a few hours early because their classrooms lack air conditioning.
Eureka and other districts have called off classes due to late-summer heat in past years, but school closures are more common in winter months when snow, frigid temperatures and howling winds make travel unsafe, Beck said.
Scott Doering, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Aberdeen, said high temperatures Wednesday were expected to range from the low 90s in northeastern South Dakota to as high as 107 in the center of the state as a ridge of high pressure made the northern and central Plains area the nation's hotspot.
Some places in central South Dakota could break or come close to breaking records before temperatures start to drop to the 80s and lower 90s Thursday, Doering said.