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State, Local Officials Monitoring Flood Threat

March 21, 2011, 4:53 PM by Jon Wilson

State, Local Officials Monitoring Flood Threat
With such widespread flooding concerns, Governor Dennis Daugaard has activated the state's Emergency Operations Center.  It will allow state officials to monitor the situation across South Dakota.

According to the latest flood forecast, the spillway in Sioux Falls is strong and the levees are high enough to handle the high water. But if the rains do come and the river does rise, the resources to fight it are ready to go.

"We're not out of the woods yet. We still have high water here yet and we have to be aware of the potential of additional rainfall making matters even worse," Todd Heitkamp with the National Weather Service said.

That threat has state leaders, including Senator Tim Johnson, watching the forecast. The Big Sioux River is expected to crest near 15 feet on Saturday. But up north, a river gauge near Watertown is flat, meaning the big melt has yet to arrive.

"Yeah, especially this time of year it's very rare to see that much snow pack still on the ground to the north," Heitkamp said.

With more rain and snow in the forecast, the Army Corps of Engineers is ready to raise the Sioux Falls levees if needed.

"We feel we've got a good five day lead time and that's what construction would take to get the proper level of protection," Army Corps of Engineers Col. Robert Ruch said.

The Corps is currently building temporary levees in Watertown, while assisting four other states preparing for flooding as well.

Now it's a waiting game to see how our forecast will affect the flooding situation in eastern South Dakota.

This week's cold temperatures are expected to slow the thaw up north even more. That means you can expect a second crest along the James and Big Sioux River during the first week of April.

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