LAKE ANDES - The water isn't going away quietly in Lake Andes.
Three months after the region first had a spring blast of snow and rain, the community is still dealing with the damage of flooding in the region. That is apparent on the southeast corner of the town's namesake lake, which has been over its banks for months and has blocked out a few of the community's main routes.
Still closed is U.S. Highway 18/281 and State Highway 50, which is signed together and runs along the south edge of the lake. The high water has made it impossible for Yankton Sioux Tribe members who live in tribal housing south of the town to get to the town of Lake Andes, especially for those individuals without a car. The highway was closed March 22 and hasn't reopened. Also closed is Park Avenue, which runs from the highway and Dollar General to the Andes Central school complex.
Charles Mix County Emergency Management Director Mike Kotab said it's been decades since the water has been this high at Lake Andes.
"Those lake levels are still way up," he said. "It's blocked off that highway, and it's just been a major pain around here."
Community members sandbagged and created temporary berms to allow residents to reach Dollar General from the town. But flooding forced some people trying to reach the town to take lengthy alternate routes. Lake Andes City Finance Officer Debbie Houseman said the town is one that is dependent on tourist traffic to the Missouri River in the summer.
"That highway and going east, that's definitely affected our community, especially for the residents of the tribal housing area that used to be able to walk to town," she said. "There's some frustration, in that it's caused some hardship for this community."
FEMA continues to approve individual assistance for households affected by the storm. As of Wednesday, the total were more than $250,000 and 62 individual applications approved around the state. Earlier this week, the figure was around $170,000, with 44 applications approved. Around the region, Bon Homme, Charles Mix and Hutchinson counties have been approved for both individual and public assistance, while the rest of East River South Dakota, plus portions of West River, including Gregory, Jones, Lyman, and Tripp counties have been approved for only public assistance.
It's hard to know what ultimately will be approved for repairs or reimbursement, Houseman said, but Lake Andes will have plenty to work on for the rest of the year. She said the city of Lake Andes has also made repairs to its lift station, which was flooded, and homes had water in basements. She described some city streets as having "exploded," when frost coming out of the ground mixed with the snowy and rainy conditions.
"They basically blew up because the frost couldn't come out naturally and the moisture didn't have a chance to come out. It's just going to be an interesting year, budget-wise, because we don't know what we're going to have to spend."
In rural areas, Kotab said gravel roads and culverts that were washed out have been the county's focus, and the damage varies based on the location within Charles Mix County.
Another focus is to see what potential quick fixes can be done to reduce the water levels in Lake Andes. The lake has a small, five-foot outlet and aqueduct, but officials believe that might be full. Kotab said it's a small process, but leaders from numerous agencies are working together to potentially relieve the water.
"We don't know if it's running at capacity," Houseman said. "It's right outside of our city limits, but it's affecting our community, so we've got a lot of groups that are meeting and trying to find a resolution."
Houseman said it's almost guaranteed that Highway 18/281/50 will require more repairs when the flooding subsides. The Park Avenue road inside city limits was replaced in 2011, she said, and will likely need major repairs again.
"We've got a lot that will have to be done," she said. "There's just really a lot of questions."
Additional information about a disaster recovery assistance center is expected to be announced next week, Kotab said. A public assistance applicant information briefing - geared toward non-profit organizations, local governments and agencies - is scheduled for 9 a.m. July 18 at the Charles Mix County 4-H building in Lake Andes.