Governor Noem issues emergency declaration after flooding in eastern SD

Governor Noem issues emergency declaration after flooding in eastern SD

Governor Kristi Noem has declared a state of emergency for parts of South Dakota following recent storms and associated flooding in the eastern part of the state.

Noem signed the statement late Saturday, saying in a press release that state agencies continue to assist local governments throughout the emergency.

“Even if the rain slows down, we have to be vigilant. The worst flooding along our rivers will be on Monday and Tuesday,” Noem said in the statement. “Check for updates on road conditions and please contact your county emergency manager if you have immediate needs.”

Noem told a news conference early Saturday morning that the “crest” of the flood event — the highest level of water flows — is expected to hit the region’s rivers and streams on Monday and Tuesday, depending on the area.

More: Gov. Noem, state officials say East SD River levels expected to peak Monday and Tuesday

The state must reach a threshold of $1.6 million in statewide damages to receive Federal Emergency Management Agency funding, which the governor hinted at during press time.

The state has up to 30 days to sign a disaster declaration, Noem said, and FEMA-authorized aid would cover 75 percent of the cost of the damage, with the rest shared by state and local taxpayers.

“We’re thankful that the storms are slowing down and we’re going through this process,” Noem said. “We will continue to stay engaged with all of our local governments.”

Here’s when water levels are expected to reach their highest levels on Noem:

  • Great Sioux River: 7 am Tuesday at 38.4 feet;
  • James River: Sometime Monday or Tuesday at 25.1 feet;
  • Vermillion River: Tuesday morning at 30 feet.

“That’s really when we’re going to see most of the water moving through the system, and we’re working to be prepared for that,” Noem said.

Rainfall totals in some cities over the past 72 hours were “very significant,” Noem said. Sioux Falls, Mitchell and Chamberlain all saw more than 7 inches of rain, the governor said, while Canton received more than 18 inches. At least 21 counties were affected by the flood, she said.

“One of the biggest areas of concern,” Noem described, is in the southeastern tip of the state. The Dakota Dunes, North Sioux City and Sioux City, Iowa, are under particular threat because the Missouri River flows near all three and is at a lower elevation compared to upstream communities.

Noem is expected to hold her next press conference to provide an update on flood conditions in the state at 2 p.m. Sunday in Dakota Dunes.

The declaration, an executive order, also includes a “no boating” order on Lake Alvin in Lincoln County, Lake Henry in Bon Homme County, Lake Marindahl in Yankton County, Lake Menno in Hutchinson County and Swan Lake in Turner County.

More: Aging Lake Alvin spillway submerged by floodwaters

As of Saturday morning, Lake Alvin reached a major flood point. Significant rains beginning Thursday and continuing into late Friday night filled the lake’s spillway, a water control structure designed to control the release of water into Ninemile Creek, a tributary of the Big Sioux River.

When an Argus Leader reporter arrived at the spillway’s confluence with the creek along 480th Avenue in Lincoln County at 5 p.m. Thursday, the spillway was completely submerged with water. A nearby road leading to a fishing dock and lookout by the lake was also under water.

On the edge of the lake on the road, a visible vortex could be seen stirring about 25 meters from the road, the reporter observed. Rushing water could be heard cascading under the road and overflowing Ninemile Creek. Ditches along sections of the road were also partially flooded, but the water had not risen above the street.

Noem said during Saturday morning’s news conference “the entire watershed of the spillway is affected by this, and those flows will continue to increase.”

“Unfortunately, I think in this situation, the water will go even higher,” Noem said.

She added that the spillway “still seems to be in good shape, even with this kind of water pressure.”

The spillway at Lake Alvin, a 105-acre reservoir owned by South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks, is slated to be completely replaced after flooding in 2019 damaged the aging structural integrity of the dam system’s infrastructure.