FEMA visits Mitchell for preliminary damage assessment work

The James River near Mitchell is pictured during September 2019 flooding. (Matt Gade / Republic)

The Federal Emergency Management Administration is conducting its preliminary damage assessment in Mitchell and Davison County, marking the next step after September’s damaging flooding.

Brian Hvinden, from FEMA’s Region 8 External Affairs office in Denver, was part of the small group that has been in Mitchell this week. Representatives for Davison County, the South Dakota Department of Emergency Management and the U.S. Small Business Administration were among the other groups involved with visiting damaged homes and businesses, while also examining impact to public infrastructure.

Public assistance assessments were conducted earlier in the week, while individual assessments to homes and businesses continued through Friday. Hvinden said the on-site team will likely be completed by middle of next week.

“It’s a real cursory view of what kind of damage this community and this area has right now,” he said. “We’re trying to get a real important idea of how many people were affected, how many homes had damage to their main floor and how many people were displaced for a significant amount of time.”

Area communities and counties have already done local damage assessments that are submitted to the state, and FEMA is currently at the stage of doing a joint PDA, which involves validating damage information and evaluating the impact. Once that information is validated, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem can make a request to the president through FEMA Region 8 to have a Presidential Disaster Declaration.


Hvinden, who said he was in the Mitchell area earlier this year for flooding in March, said the assessment is one step in the process. For those who have been directly affected, Hvinden said people should continue to progress with repairs and other work, and documenting that work in case of possible assistance.

“It’s a strange time of the year to be dealing with flooding, so it’s important to weatherize the house and prepare for it to get colder,” he said.

Hvinden said individuals should also continue to be in close contact with their insurance companies. If a federal disaster declaration is made, Hvinden joked “we’ll be out with a megaphone” to get in contact with the community.

“We tell people to continue doing whatever they need to after a disaster like this,” he said. “Don’t be waiting (for us), because it’s a process that can take time.”

If approved, it will be the state’s fourth disaster declaration of the year. South Dakota received a federal disaster declaration in June for severe winter storms and flooding that occurred March 13-April 26 and that affected 58 counties and three reservations. A second disaster declaration for the period of May 26-June 7 was approved in September for flooding and storms that occurred in 25 counties and two reservations, and a third was approved in October for June 30-July 21 for damage done by severe storms, tornadoes and flooding in six counties, along with two reservations.

Traxler is the assistant editor and sports editor for the Mitchell Republic. He's worked for the newspaper since 2014 and has covered a wide variety of topics. He can be reached at
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