South Dakota Flooding

Dear Twitter Friends and Followers,

You may have heard a bit about the recent flooding in South Dakota, but I just wanted to explain what’s going on in my hometown of Fort Pierre, SD.

Pierre and Fort Pierre are towns that sit on both sides of the Missouri River in central South Dakota. Due to heavy snows this past winter and a lot of rain this spring, the reservoirs created by the dam systems on the Missouri are at maximum levels, so the US Army Corps of Engineers (who operate the dams and regulate water flow rates) is increasing the water release amounts to keep the reservoirs and rivers from being uncontrollable. This increased water release is causing flooding in communities along the river. So yes, the Corps is flooding communities on purpose to try and avoid the total catastrophe that might occur if lift stations fail in the dams or if water pours over emergency spillways.

The reservoirs on the Missouri are enormous. When the Oahe Dam was constructed, it was one of the largest in the world. Lake Oahe is the 4th largest man-made reservoir in the US and is over 200 miles long. Because of the immense amounts of water in the river system, the flooding that will likely occur won’t be over in a few days like one typically sees on free-flowing river systems. The flooding from the Missouri has the potential to last for several months until water levels are back to normal and controllable amounts. This will bring normal life to a grinding halt in most of these river communities.

My hometown is Fort Pierre and there are currently 1900 residents there. It has been estimated that up to 1300 of those people will be displaced by the flood. This means that 70% of the whole town will need to find a new place to live—some temporarily, some forever. My parents still live in Fort Pierre. Mom’s house sits safely up on a hill, but her business is in trouble due to the flood. Dad’s house is in a lower part of town and he and his neighbors have been sandbagging the neighborhood non-stop in order to try and hold back the water.

The same story is happening all across Pierre and Fort Pierre and soon for cities and towns all along the Missouri (it connects with the Mississippi just north of St. Louis). Water release rates from the dam will go up to 150,000 cubic feet per second in the next week (previous record was only 59,000 cfs) and stay at that rate for weeks. The community and local governments have been working hard to build temporary levees and sandbag walls, and I hope and pray that those efforts work long enough until all the extra water is moved down the river.

This issue hasn’t garnered a lot of attention from the national media to date. Like in any other community dealing with a natural disaster, the residents there don’t care about the media attention, but sometimes extra support and relief come from across the country and world when others become aware of what is going on. Hopefully levees hold and catastrophe is avoided so none of the support and relief are needed.

However, if you wanted to do something to help from afar, here are some suggestions:
–The American Red Cross is a fantastic organization to help those in need. Make a donation to the Oahe Chapter of the ARC. Just head to www.redcross.org.
–My high school classmate and friend Bruce Kessler owns Gator’s Pizza in Pierre, SD. He’s been taking donations over the phone to make pizzas to deliver to the sandbagging crews who are working all across town and at all hours. Call him at 605-224-6262. This is legitimate and your money will go directly toward helping these people. Tell him you’re a friend of mine.
–Thoughts, prayers, and positive thoughts do help in good times and bad. Think about my friends and family in SD and also anyone across the country who has been effected by the many natural disasters that have taken place this spring.

Thanks for reading this and please consider sharing this post with a Tweet!

Curt Rees