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Hand County Dam Gives Way, Damages Property

July 30, 2010, 6:27 PM by Erich Schaffhauser

Hand County Dam Gives Way, Damages Property
MILLER, SD - Heavy rain in Hand County put two people along Rose Hill Lake in a frightening situation Friday. The lake filled up and overflowed, catching two Huron men camping alongside it off guard.

Authorities responded to a 911 call at the lake shortly after 2 a.m. and found two men hanging onto a tree. They were surrounded by rushing water.

Rescuers couldn't reach them by land so they tried calling in a helicopter but weren't able to get one locally.

The spillway of the dam eventually gave out followed by the dam itself, causing the water level to drop around them. The men were then able to walk to higher ground and wait for authorities to reach them through a back way.

Doctors treated and released one from the hospital in Miller. They flew the other to Sioux Falls with head injuries.

The Hand County sheriff says it took between four and five hours to rescue the men. They spent about half that time hanging to the tree.

Click on the thumbnail images below to view as larger pictures.

Photos Courtesy: Brian Duxbury, Hand County Emergency Management Director

While the dam giving way helped in the rescue, it caused plenty of problems elsewhere. It happened around 3:30 in the morning and sent a wall of water roaring from the lake though property and roads.

People in the eastern edge of Hand County and the western edge of Beadle can now tell you all too well what happens when a dam of that size gives way.

"It'll be a lot of fences, a lot of tree damage, a lot of road damage, bridge damage.  It's going to be a pretty devastating year before it's all done," Paul Duxbury said.

And Duxbury doesn't have to go far to see that damage. When the water swept through his place, it took out a barn with four calves inside.

"And before we could get there to open up to let them out, the water was coming through fast enough we couldn't get the gate open," Duxbury said.

Three of the four didn't make it. Roads for miles around Duxbury's place didn't either.

Excess water flowing when the dam gave out wasn't the only culprit for that. Heavy rain sent water pouring over roads in other parts of the counties as well. Some people reported up to ten inches in their rain gauge.

Now people like Duxbury will be counting the days, weeks, even months it'll take to clean up.

"Oh, I would say it could take up to probably even six months before we get the barn replaced, the fences fixed and the bridges put back in and all the road work done," Duxbury said.

The state owns the now washed out dam and isn't sure what its future will be. Crews will be on site Monday to start assessing the damage and see if it's worth fixing.

Officials from Game, Fish and Parks say the dam wasn't compromised before the heavy rain put all this pressure on it.

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