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KATIE ZERR: Fierce storms and bad air are warnings

In our fight to protect business and agriculture from the over reach of the Environmental Protection Agency, are we playing a role in the recent changes to our environment?
This year we have experienced a rash of storms that were historic in amount of precipitation (snow and rain) and the damage caused. South Dakota has had a rough year when it comes to Mother Nature.
Some shake it off as the normal cycle of weather and that is true in some cases. But the intensity of the storms that have hit this area in the past five years is what stood out.
Living here for a good part of my life, I can’t remember fearing the ferocity of thunder storms as I have in the past several summers. In the past five years alone, three large trees have been blown over in my yard.
That is more than in the previous 21 years all together.
My obsession with storms and weather has recently been tempered by the sheer force of the winds in which I have been caught chasing storms for pictures and for the joy of watching a gathering storm.
Several summers ago, as a thunderstorm approached from the west I hopped into my vehicle, camera in hand and headed to the point (near the water plant) as I had done many times in the past.
As the storm approached, it didn’t seem unusually severe. The radio and radar were tracking the storm, but no warnings had been issued. I was not alarmed at all.
Then as I watched the approaching weather through the lens of my camera, I saw what I realized too late was a wall of wind crossing Lake Oahe.
Before I could drop the camera in the seat next to me, roll up the windows and put the car in gear that wind hit the east side of the water. My vehicle was hit with flying debris picked up as the wind hit the point. My car was rocking from the strength of the wind. As I turned to head into town, something hit the back of my car, but I couldn’t see what it was because of the dust being blown around.
It was a long trip home, but the storm was not over as I watched from the safety of my front porch the trees of the neighborhood twirl and rock against the fierce winds.
It was one of those nights that was followed by several days of watching trailers and pickups filled with tree branches parade to the ruble sight south of town.
That storm tempered my need to be in the middle of the action as far as the weather goes, but it was only the first of many times in recent memories that I have watched, with great worry, storms hitting our area.
Thinking back through the summers, I can’t remember storms in consecutive summers that took down trees in this area. In the past several summers we have had storm after storm that contained winds of more than 60 miles per hour.
It is not just the severity of storms that is concerning, but also the quality of the air we breathe.
As we applaud the loosening of EPA regulations, we also suffer the consequences of what it means to not rein in some industries. Recently reports have shown that after decades of improvement, in the past two years the air we breathe is not as clean as before.
The data shows there were 15 percent more days with unhealthy air in America both last year and the year before than there were on average from 2013 through 2016. The nation had more polluted air days than just a few years earlier. While it remains unclear whether this is the beginning of a trend, the recent data shows the progress in our air quality has stagnated.
This doesn’t prove that loosening the regulations that limit certain chemicals and emissions from factories and vehicles have caused the poor air quality as natural factors also play a role.
With the increase in severity in weather along with the decrease in air quality in our country we may have the connection that scientists are claiming.
If we won’t listen to them shouldn’t we listen to Mother Nature?