Update: A version of this story has been corrected to update accurate rainfall amounts. The National Weather Service provided inaccurate rainfall totals to The Daily Republic on Thursday. From Tuesday through Thursday, Mitchell officially received 7.08 inches of rain.
One by one, motorcycles were rolled away from Klock Werks.
A day earlier, some were in perfect showroom condition. After a powerful rainstorm blasted the region, their shine was lost.
Employees from Klock Werks arrived to their South Kimball Street shop Thursday morning splashing through multiple inches of standing water. From the parking lot into the shop and the showroom, Klock Werks has been devastated with water, much like the rest of eastern South Dakota.
“We start out each morning with a prayer,” said owner Brian Klock. “We’re going to do that again today.”
Klock, employees and friends gathered, prayed and devised a plan of action. First on the list was to push the custom motorcycles out of the building and onto drier ground. At least 25 bikes — some one-of-a-kind, others limited edition — flooded out.
The storm that ran from Tuesday night to Thursday morning officially dropped more than 7 inches of rain in Mitchell, according to the National Weather Service in Sioux Falls.
In addition to the 2.42 inches of rain on Tuesday, Mitchell received an official 3.53 inches on Wednesday, breaking a single-day Sept. 11 rainfall record previously set in 1901 at 1.90 inches. On Thursday, Mitchell received 1.13 inches of rain. The three-day total was 7.08 inches. Mitchell’s record for rainfall in a single day all time is 4.66 inches on Aug. 11, 1953.
Other unofficial two-day reports were much more significant, recording as much as 9.5 inches of rain. Many rain gauges spilled over Wednesday night into Thursday morning.
“It wasn’t just one, that’s what made it tough,” said Alex Trellinger, meteorologist with NWS Sioux Falls. “We call it a ‘training storm.’ One storm happens and another follows the exact same path. Think of it like train cars — the storm just keeps going over it again and again.”
By late-Thursday afternoon, Interstate 90 was scheduled to be closed from Highway 281 to Sioux Falls. Mitchell School District called off classes Thursday morning and then decided Friday was a no-go as well.
Well into Thursday afternoon, the south-central portion of Mitchell near Klock Werks still held significant standing water. Multiple blocks on Havens Avenue were closed as the city’s street department was working to find a solution for drainage. Nearby on Havens, Prestige Salon & Spa was asking for volunteers to help clear the basement of water.
Throughout the city, citizens and workers were honed in on the aftermath of the downpour. People were buying up sump pumps and dehumidifiers to clean up soggy or underwater basements.
“You can’t get upset about it,” said Scott DeSchepper, known as “Scotty D,” who was helping out at Klock Werks. “It’s just the way it goes.”
Brian Klock urged the city of Mitchell to work together and help each other out.
“I hope you rally around someone near you,” Klock said. “That’s the key. We’ve got this.”
Around town, the water threatens
Down the street from Klock Werks, Denny Kaemingk was taking stock of his property. Kaemingk, who owns a pair of rental homes at the corner of East Hackberry Avenue and South Langdon Street, was standing where it was dry, but just hours earlier, the water was up at least 2 feet off the ground, as signified by high-water marks that had formed on the homes. One of them, he said, had a basement that was full of water. About 100 feet from the front door, the water in the street started to climb to waist-high.
“It’s been this way, but … it’s never looked like this,” said Kaemingk, who has owned the homes since 1976.
Kaemingk also owns the Eden Apartments on the north end of the city, but didn’t have any issues there with renters. At the two-home location along Hackberry, Kaemingk said he had helped his renters move out of their homes to drier locations. He said that’s the main concern for him in a time like this.
“Safety is the emphasis,” he said. “That’s always mattered most.”
On the southwest corner of a quick-moving and overflowing Dry Run Creek and Minnesota Avenue, neighbors Kim Fowler and Ernest Bies were both grateful the water in their backyards wasn’t causing more damage. On Thursday morning, they were left to only watch.
“It’s Mother Nature,” Bies said. “There’s not much you can do about it.”
At 712 W. Hanson Ave., Bies has lived at his home since 1976. He said this was surely the highest water he’s seen since 1998. His backyard was filled with tomato plants poking up out of the water. There was about 18 inches of water.
“It rained so hard, it was like a river up here,” Bies said.
Fowler, who lives next door and has lived next to the creek for most of the last 30 years, said she stood on her front porch during the storm, and water was running up to the top of that porch, which stands about two feet off the ground.
“It’s just so quick,” she said.
Across the street, Brenda Olesen was sitting on her front porch discussing the storm with Fowler and Bies. Her family had just put in new sod in their backyard in recent weeks, but on Thursday, that was all gone.
“It’s all somewhere in the creek,” she said, pointing toward Dry Run. “The worst part is you wait for that sod and then it just gets taken away and that’s it.”
It only got worse later in the day Thursday for those living near Dry Run Creek. The rising water forced the closure of the creek’s crossings at Minnesota Avenue and Burr Street. The South Dakota Department of Transportation was also monitoring the creek’s areas at Sanborn Boulevard and Ohlman Street, as well, for possible traffic adjustments. Authorities believe the water will remain a threat through at least Friday.
Flood impact on Main Street
While some areas of the city experienced more severe flooding, many businesses along Mitchell’s Main Street feel like they lucked out.
Olesen, who owns Einstein’s Costume and Prop Rental shop on Main Street, said they left their home for a while to check on their business. It had water in the basement, which was gushing through the front door.
“I think if it wouldn’t have gotten through the door, we would have been OK,” she said.
Craig Steinke is one of the Main Street business owners whose building experienced minor puddles of water after the Wednesday night rainstorm. Steinke’s home décor storefront, Craig Ryans, is located on the north end of downtown Mitchell.
Considering the severe flooding and the significant amount of standing water some local businesses dealt with in the aftermath of the torrential downpour, Steinke considers himself lucky.
“When I saw how much water Patzer Woodworking and Klock Werks had this morning, I realize how lucky I was to have the small amounts of water that got into the store,” Steinke said, while he rearranged some of his décor items away from the water near the front windows.
Mike Minder, a Mitchell native who lives in a Main Street apartment near the Antique Mall, has never witnessed such a heavy amount of rainfall in his years of living in the city. Minder said he was surprised more downtown storefronts didn’t have substantial water damage inside their buildings given what Main Street looked like at around 11 p.m. Wednesday night.
“The water got so high last night that it was touching the bottom of the buildings,” Minder said Thursday morning. “You dang near could have took a kayak through Main Street. It was a crazy amount of water.”
Keith Wels, owner of Palace City Coins, said the interior of his Main Street business was untouched by water damage. Upon opening the doors to his 406 N. Main St. storefront, Wels said he was pleased the small elevation the building sits on was high enough to stop the flood waters from trickling into his store.
“I think most Main Street stores are feeling pretty lucky for how much rain we got,” Wels said. “It’s been a wet cycle this past year.”
The situation was more grim for a business in the basement of the downtown mall. A group of people were removing the mats that cover the floor of Ultimate Kicks Tae Kwon Do of Mitchell.
“We came in at 8:30 a.m. to clean what we could, but it keeps rising slowly,” said Nichole Kremer, as she waded through about an inch of standing water in the basement of the mall. “It could have been worse down here.”
City crews determined to work together
The severity of flooding that’s been a result of the rainstorm’s aftermath is unlike anything Mitchell Mayor Bob Everson has witnessed throughout his life growing up in the city.
Although he’s aware city crews have a burdensome task ahead of them, Everson said crews were up before dawn on Thursday morning, attending to the lift stations scattered across the city.
“The lift stations are all full and overloaded, and they’ve been out pumping as fast as they can to stay ahead of things,” Everson said of the city crews.
While Everson has a strong degree of trust in city crews attending to the flood conditions, he said clean-up efforts will take time.
“We had severe flooding in the spring, and the crews have experience with disasters like this. They did a great job then, and I’m confident they will now,” Everson said. “It will require some patience to get through this, but we need to do our best to get the water under control.”
Everson addressed several concerns that he wants residents to be aware of during the flooding, which includes children playing in standing water and drivers taking the risk of traveling through high amounts of water.
With uncertainty of standing water containing sewage and contaminants, Everson said children who play in the water also run the risk of becoming ill.
“At this point, we don’t feel there are any sewage and health concerns that the water contains, but it’s a risk one should not take,” Everson said.
Everson cautioned residents living along Lake Mitchell to monitor water levels and their boat lifts.
According to Everson, the city issued a no-wake zone Wednesday evening, as water levels are well above the spillway.
“We’re expecting the lake to only rise with all the water in every creek around the city, and as it drains it could get ugly,” Everson said.
To combat flooding, the city is offering sandbags to residents, which can be picked up at the Davison County Highway Shop, located at 1224 W. Fifth Ave. Individuals will have to fill their own bags.
“This water has to drain and go somewhere, but we can’t control Mother Nature. We all have to be patient and see this storm through,” Everson said.