Sunday, August 7, 2011

Flood Update (excerpted from Parker Knox's Midweek Update)


Vol. 11, No. 38; Thursday, Aug. 4, 2011
[Parker Knox has a regular email update for Pierre/Ft. Pierre residents and former residents.  Last week's offering covered 'what's new with the flood' and some of those portions are excerpted below. Click on the link above to view the entire Update, and to subscribe or review the Archives.]
A two-month flood, they said? Make that three or more

JULY 14: A new type of plastic covering is being used for the levees. Plastic is used to cover the levees and protect further damage. Pierre city engineer John Childs said some wear and tear of the plastic coverings is to be expected. He said maintenance of the levees is a daily process. (News courtesy of "Today's KCCR News.")

JULY 16: With a reduction in water releases coming out of Lake Oahe, the Department of Game, Fish and Parks reopened the boat ramp on Hipple Lake at Farm Island Recreation Area. At the same time Gov. Daugaard modified the boating ban that was previously put in place on upper Lake Sharpe. Boating was again allowed on Hipple Lake at Farm Island and also in the main channel of the river from the Farm Island causeway downstream to Big Bend Dam. However, to continue protecting levees, homes and other private property, the upper reaches of Lake Sharpe from Oahe Dam itself downstream to the Farm Island causeway remained closed to boating. (News courtesy of "Today's KCCR News.")

JULY 21: City administrator Leon Schochenmaier told city commissioners that outflows from the reservoir have now exceeded the inflows. He said that has meant less water to deal with. Crews continued to work daily on issues such as pumping storm water from city streets. Schochenmaier said storm sewers will remain plugged until the water level goes down further. (News courtesy of "Today's KCCR News.")

JULY 22: Flood relief funds amounting to $114,400 were distributed from a fund established by First Natinal Bank. Bank president Craig Davis said funds were distributed during a three-meeting process and that everyone who applied when the funds were available received some money. There were 227 respondents, about 200 of them being families. Davis said the bank's goal was to wait to provide the money for recovery, but many of those receiving the money needed it now. The initial funds included $100,000 provided by the family of former Gov. Frank Farrar, which owns the bank, and $10,000 from Avera Health. The fund remains open for additional contributions. (News courtesy of "Today's KCCR News.")

JULY 22: Downtown Pierre literally rocked on Friday night, July 22, as an estimated $33,000 was raised during The Rockin' on the River benefit concert and celebrate sponsored by the Historic Downtown Pierre Association. Association president Scott Cameron said 2,000 wrist bands, needed to purchase alcohol, were sold by 11 p.m., so the attendance was at least that. Modern Woodmen will also match some of the funds raised. The proceeds will go to the Oahe Flood Relief Fund established by the Pierre Area Chamber of Commerce at BankWest. Dance-goers simply ignored the sandbags that still line Pierre Street and Dakota Avenue and the stairsteps that enable people to get up, over and down the walls of sandbags. (News courtesy of "Today's KCCR News.")

JULY 23: The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) rejected South Dakota's request for individual assistance programs to help residents impacted by record flooding. Gov. Daugaard called the action disappointing. He said the denial came in a letter from FEMA administrator Craig Fugate, who said damage to homes and businesses fell short of the severity and magnitude needed to warrant federal assistance. (News courtesy of "Today's KCCR News.")

JULY 25: American Legion Post 8 received a $5,000 grant from the American Legion National Emergency Fund, which provides grants to Legion posts harmed by natural disasters. The check was presented to Post 8 commander Nick Dooley from District 10 commander Royce Loesch. Post 8's American Legion cabin at the foot of Pierre Street has been surrounded by Missouri River flood waters on three sides since the flooding began in May. No access has been allowed to the building, and Post 8's lounge was moved to the former Mesa's Diner location on North Harrison Avenue for the duration of the flood. (News courtesy of "Today's KCCR News.")

JULY 26: Capital Area United Way presented checks of $6,000 to Pierre Area Referral Service and $1,000 to the Community & Youth Involved Center in Fort Pierre. The donations will be used by those agencies to help those in need. United Way executive director Gloria Hanson said her organization understands that many of its member agencies are running low on funds helping those impacted by the flood. Dan Lusk, United Way board president, said United Way has been involved in flood relief since the first days of the flood. He said the group provided another $1,000 to help provide meals and other services to volunteers. (News courtesy of "Today's KCCR News.")

JULY 29: Here are some of the key dates, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, for decreases in water releases and elevation from Oahe Dam and the reservoir. The dates are part of the floodwater plan as released Friday by the Corps. While the dam releases, measured in cubic feet per second (cfs), do not fall every day, the reservoir elevation is dropping one or two tenths of a foot every day. The Corps cautions that the numbers could change depending on rainfall or other factors. (News courtesy "Today's KCCR News.")

Date      Dam Releases  Reservoir Elevation
August 3       130,000 cfs        1617.2 feet
August 16     125,000 cfs        1615.0 feet
August 17     120,000 cfs        1614.8 feet
August 18     115,000 cfs        1614.7 feet
August 19     110,000 cfs        1614.5 feet
August 20     105,000 cfs        1614.4 feet
August 21     100,000 cfs        1614.3 feet
August 22       95,000 cfs        1614.2 feet
August 23       90,000 cfs        1614.1 feet
August 24       85,000 cfs        1614.1 feet
August 25       80,000 cfs        1614.0 feet
September 8   75,000 cfs        1612.7 feet
September 12 70,000 cfs        1612.1 feet
September 14 65,000 cfs        1611.8 feet
September 16 60,000 cfs        1611.5 feet
September 18 55,000 cfs        1611.1 feet
September 20 50,000 cfs        1610.9 feet
September 22 45,000 cfs        1610.7 feet
September 24 40,000 cfs        1610.5 feet
September 26 35,000 cfs        1610.4 feet
September 28 30,000 cfs        1610.3 feet
September 30 30,000 cfs        1610.3 feet

JULY 30: Don't expect the flood waters to go down as quickly as they went up. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says as the flood water goes down in Pierre-Fort Pierre, it will be more gradual than it was when it came out of the river banks in May. Jody Farhat of the Corps’ Omaha office says the decrease will be more orderly as water from the flood plain flows back into the river. She says the drop will not be as dramatic visually as it was when the water rose at the flood's start. On Saturday, the water releases from the Oahe Dam were reduced from 140,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 135,000 cfs. The releases will drop to 130,000 on Wednesday and will remain there until Aug. 16 before decreasing again. The releases will reach 85,000 cfs, the point where the Corps says the water will be back in its banks, Aug. 24 and will eventually be at 30,000 cfs by Sept. 30. At the same time, the elevation of the Oahe reservoir continues to drop about a tenth of a foot each day. On Saturday, the elevation was 1617.7 feet and will be at 1617.6 feet Sunday. (News courtesy of "Today's KCCR News.")

AUG. 2: Barricades and access checkpoints that have guarded Pierre neighborhoods most in danger of flooding are coming down effective Friday. They were first installed in late May and early June to protect homes within the inundation zones. Law enforcement helped control access to those areas, allowing in only residents who remained in the neighborhoods or who had evacuated and wanted to check on their properties. With water releases scheduled to keep going down, city officials in Pierre said they understand more people want to go back to their properties to start the cleanup. While there will be no further checkpoints, Police Chief Bob Grandpre said law enforcement will continue to provide security for the neighborhoods. Residents who live there are also asked to keep their credentials in case they are needed again. Officials cautioned that, just because checkpoints are coming down, people should not move back into their homes yet. Officials said there is still too much water behind the levees. Also people who do not live in the impacted neighborhoods or who are there to help with the cleanup are asked to stay away and not impede the work of others. (News courtesy of "Today's KCCR News.")

AUG. 3: Mayor Gill and Mayor Tidball are working on a series of clean-up days, the first of which is set for Saturday, Aug. 27. Gill said that, by both cities working together, resources can be shared. More details on this first clean-up event will be announced later. Gill said there will be more such clean-up days as the floodwaters continue to recede. (News courtesy of "Today's KCCR News.")


Homeowners in the Pierre area have fought off the rising river for two months, and for a handful of residents the fight continues on Frontier Road north of Fort Pierre.

The Sanchez family has spent almost every day this summer in a boat, but they never wanted their boat rides to be to their home surrounded by the Missouri River. "It was May 25 when we first got word that we were going to need to be out of our homes for six to eight weeks. It's now July 25. It's been eight weeks, and you can tell the water is still up," homeowner Tiffany Sanchez said.

The river has swallowed up 22 homes on Frontier Road, and almost three feet of water remains in many of the houses. Sanchez and her family live in one of five homes on the street that are still pumping water from behind massive sandbag walls. "Most of us want to come back, the five are planning on coming back, the other 20 are hoping and praying the water goes down so that they can come back," Sanchez said.

The Sanchezes have allowed water to fill their crawlspace to keep it from collapsing, and a temporary power grid inside the garage has been set up to provide electricity for the pumps to keep the water away from the house. So far it's working, but it hasn't been easy to maintain for two months. "When it rains, you stress. When the power goes out, you stress. It's the middle of the night, and you're coming out here, getting in a boat, trying to go out and switch your pumps over from the power to gas generators," Sanchez said.

The most frustrating part is that all the homeowners in the development thought the water would be down by now, but the Corps of Engineers hasn't given any clear schedule for ending this flood.

"We just don't know, and that's what's so trying. I said we feel like we're hostage to them because we can't move forward because we don't know when we can move forward," Sanchez said.

But they still consider themselves lucky because no one on the street has been hurt, and everyone is trying to keep their spirits up even though the water remains high.

"We've had a lousy summer, and it's really not been ideal, but we're all alive, we're all still kicking, and this we'll survive. But it's hard; it's been trying," Sanchez said.

A trying time that's now been a two-month disaster.


Two different financial funds designed to help flood recovery victims have been established by the Oahe Long-Term Disaster Recovery Committee.

The Emergency/Immediate Needs Fund will help with rent/mortgage assistance, food/goods/household items and direct assistance. Meanwhile, the Long-Term Flood Recovery Needs Fund will help with rebuilding assistance such as construction materials and repairs.

Financial donations given for the Long-Term Recovery Needs Fund will be used to match other possible available national funds. The recovery team will look to national, regional and local funding sources to help provide relief and restoration throughout the Pierre-Ft. Pierre area. There are no administrative fees with either of these funds, so all money will go back into the community as flood relief.

How to donate:
To donate to the Emergency/Immediate Needs Fund send contributions payable to:
Pierre Area Referral Service
2520 E. Franklin Street
Pierre, SD 57501

To donate to the Oahe Long-Term Recovery Needs Fund your contributions payable to:
Oahe Flood Relief Fund
c/o PO Box 548
Pierre, SD 57501

Donations can also be made at any BankWest location in South Dakota or donate online at

Donations to the funds are tax deductible and 100% of donations will go to flood recovery efforts in the Pierre-Fort Pierre area.

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