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Eastern South Dakota endures water everywhere with 1-2 punch

A walking bridge in a park in southwest Sioux Falls along Skunk Creek, which runs into the Big Sioux River, was covered with floodwaters on Thursday, March 15. Courtesy of Joyce Rodman

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — With a one-two punch of rain and a massive beginning to snowmelt, Sioux Falls and other parts of southeast South Dakota had water everywhere Thursday and into Friday, March 15.

Perhaps a third punch could be that the ground is still frozen up to two feet deep, leaving nowhere for the water to sink in.

In Sioux Falls, the Big Sioux River, which had also been frozen, reached a record level at 17.15 feet at 7:15 a.m. Thursday causing roadways and parks to flood across the city. The previous record was 16.01 feet in 1957.

Amazingly, there wasn't a lot of property damage in Sioux Falls, although some homes had water in their basements, according to meteorologist Kerry Hanko with the National Weather Service in the city.


With the quickly rising Big Sioux and streets flooding, a few residents had to be rescued and at least one neighborhood was asked to evacuate. Ice chunks that came floating down the once-solidly frozen creeks and the river were also causing trouble, Hanko said.

Along the Big Sioux, a YMCA camp, called Camp Leif Erickson, had significant equipment and structure damage. Two pickup trucks and a cargo van were also damaged in the rapidly rising waters.

The punch of up to 3 inches of rain in some parts of southeast South Dakota and the higher temperatures that had been melting the snow for a few days could have caused more damage downstream and in other areas of southeast South Dakota, Hanko said.

In Minnehaha County, where Sioux Falls is located, assistant county emergency management director Doug Blomker said they still might need to apply for disaster assistance. Things were settling down on Friday, he said, but some homes and roadways were damaged.

Although most city streets were open again, he was concerned about township roads out in the county and some city streets that had washouts.

"We're still in the recovery stage," he said late Friday afternoon.

Residents were urged not to drive through floodwaters as the roadways underneath may be washed away, said Tony Mangan, spokesman for the South Dakota Department of Public Safety.

He was in the Emergency Operations Center in Pierre late Friday as South Dakota officials were not only keeping an eye on flooding, but also the recovery from Thursday's blizzard that swept across the state.

Another possible trouble area, he said, was in Yankton and Dakota Dunes along the Missouri River after the snowmelt, rain, and additional water being released from the Gavin's Point Dam and Lewis and Clark Lake. That water was heading down the Missouri in the far southeast part of the state. So far, only minor flooding was expected for the South Dakota towns, said Hanko, although the nearby town of Hornick, Iowa, along the Missouri just south of Sioux City, Iowa, had to be evacuated.

The dam release was made because the lake had little storage capacity left and more water was expected from the heavy snows in central South Dakota and North Dakota.

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