More than 4 inches of rain overnight Wednesday into Thursday — and 7-plus inches in a span of about 30 hours — left Mitchell and the region reeling from flash flooding.
Some of Mitchell's most intense flooding on Thursday morning was in the area of East Havens Avenue and East Hackberry Avenue between South Main Street and South Davison Street. Overnight, flash flooding was also taking place on a number of primary routes in the city, including Main Street and the downtown district. Dry Run Creek, which generally does not carry much water, was up to its banks and water was rushing.
According to the National Weather Service, a total of 7.07 inches of rain fell in Mitchell between about 10 p.m. Tuesday and 4 a.m. Thursday. More than 2 inches of that fell in a single hour Wednesday night.
Since Tuesday, the James River at Mitchell has climbed four feet, and has returned to major flooding stage. Flood warnings remained in effect for the James River near Mitchell and Scotland and Firesteel Creek near Mount Vernon, and the James River was at major flood stage shortly before 11 a.m. Thursday.
Road closures and water restrictions went into effect Thursday morning after rain hit southeastern South Dakota for the second night in a row. Most recently, North Ohlman Street in Mitchell was closed from West Eighth Avenue to West 23rd Avenue shortly before 11 a.m.
By 1 a.m. Thursday, flood warnings were issued for all or parts of Davison, Aurora, Charles Mix, Gregory, Douglas, Hanson and Brule counties.
At 6:48 a.m., the Mitchell Department of Public Safety issued a water restriction as a result of flooding and overloading of the sanitary sewer. Mount Vernon is also on a water restriction, and the Sanborn County Sheriff's Office is encouraging limiting water usage in Artesian, Woonsocket and Letcher.
Interstate 90 was closed Thursday morning between Mitchell and Plankinton, and the state Department of Transportation has advised that no one travel on the interstate between Kimball and Plankinton and between Mitchell and Humboldt. The DOT said water has been reported over the roadway in many locations, and approaches have gone underwater. Signs and barricades have been placed, the state DOT said.
State highways 37 and 38 were also placed under a travel advisory.
"About 80 percent of our county is underwater," Aurora County Emergency Manager James Nielson told The Daily Republic over the phone while standing in an overflow spot. "... We've received almost 8 inches in the last 48 hours, and it's just too much. There's no place for the water to go."
Aurora County has advised only necessary travel on most of its roads and has closed others. Nielson said the goal now is to preserve infrastructure and keep water moving downstream as much as possible.
Farther south, travel on State Highway 46 is not advised from Pickstown to the highway's intersection with State Highway 50. A segment of S.D. 46 from 5 miles east of Pickstown to a quarter-mile west of the Wagner junction has been closed, and travel is not advised on State Highway 42 east of Ethan.
Charles Mix County Emergency Management Supervisor Mike Kotab told The Daily Republic that as of about 9 a.m. Thursday morning, Platte Lake Road, which borders Lake Platte, had begun to wash out near the lake's spillway, which is something he hasn't seen before.
County residents are being advised to be cautious on gravel and secondary roads.
"There's water all over. It's virtually across the county," Kotab said. "... It's a blur all together."
“It’s like a waterfall. It’s going down the spillway, but it took the road out next to the spillway,” said Kristi Pheifer, a Platte resident who observed the flooding Thursday morning. “...There’s a lot of people that live down the valley from there. It’s filling up the ditches along (S.D. Highway) 44, too.”
The large amount of rain, on top of the already saturated soil, has caused flooding on many county roads; as well as city streets in Ethan, Mount Vernon and Mitchell, Davison County Emergency Management Director Jeff Bathke said.
“Many of the roads washed out in March are washed out again,” Bathke said. “Crews are putting up road closed signs as fast as they can. However, extreme caution should be used while driving on any road.”
The National Weather Service Monitor on the James River is at 13.79 feet and expected to crest next week at 20.3 feet. Flood stage is 12 feet. Massive amounts of water are entering Lake Mitchell via Firesteel Creek, which is at 12.62 feet, and will crest Friday at 14.8 feet. Flood stage is 8 feet. There is approximately 1 foot of water currently going over the Lake Mitchell spillway.
A sandbag station has been set up for residents at the Davison County Highway Shop at 1224 W. Fifth Ave. The City of Mitchell is unable to provide a sandbag station, as it is under water.
Several homes have flooded basements, sewage backup, and a few with collapsed basement walls. Free clean up buckets/mops are available through the Salvation Army, located at 724 N. Sanborn Blvd. The Salvation Army is on scene in Mount Vernon assisting in operations, with plans to serve a meal tonight at the Lutheran Church.
Davison County Emergency Management will work with state and local officials over the next several weeks to assess the damage. If you are in need of non-emergency assistance, please call 605-999-2863. Rural emergency response will be very difficult due to the status of the roads.