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Summer Flooding Difficulties

August 5, 2010, 10:05 PM by Shawn Neisteadt

Summer Flooding Difficulties
SIOUX FALLS, SD - Over the past few weeks, KELOLAND News has brought you multiple stories of people dealing with damaged homes and ruined property from mid-summer flooding.

More than 100 homeowners in the city of Sioux Falls are still cleaning and disinfecting their belongings, but it could have been much worse.

While this isn't the typical seasonal flooding, city leaders say they were well prepared to fight off the murky water.

With a long winter full of snow, flooding wasn't just possible this past spring, it was expected.

"Flood preparation from river flooding, snow melt and river flooding gives us lots of time to prepare because we're easily 90 days out on an event like that," Sioux Falls Risk and Emergency Manager Mike Hall said.

Preparing for the worst case scenario, the city prepared massive pumps and gathered thousands of sandbags this past spring. Agencies from across the city were put on alert.

"So in January, we start to have that kind of discussion and forecast and move forward and then kind of plan for the worst case," Hall said.

Luckily for Sioux Falls, the melt created few problems and the widespread disaster that could have been caused by overflowing rivers, like what happened in 1997, was avoided. It appeared the coast was clear.

"When we have flash flooding events, nobody can predict when they're going to happen," Hall said.

Hall says this summer's events are much more difficult to prepare for because unlike watching rising river water, this year's damaging water is less visible until it flows into basements.

"This event with some sewage backup, although it's an emergency, it doesn't constitute a true disaster except to those folks affected," Hall said.

Hall also notes that while more than 100 homes have been damaged, destroying countless pieces of personal property, this situation could have been worse had the city not spent $40 million to upgrade underground systems after similar flooding seven years ago.

"I was here in '93, and I know that we saw hundreds of homes that were inundated with storm water or sewage or both, perhaps as many as 300 to 500 homes," Hall said.

Hall has taken around 150 calls recently for damaged homes. He adds though that this week's events where thousands of homes were in danger shows that the city is prepared for tough situations, even if not all damage could be avoided.

"The reality is it could happen every year and fortunately it doesn't. And again, I think the city has done a good job of improving some of those areas that were not at the level that we currently build at today," Hall said.

But for some that's little comfort as they sift through the damage from the record rainfall summer of 2010.

If your home has been damaged from sewage backup, the city can try to help pay for some cleaning or insurance deductibles. The number you need to know for that is 367-8742.

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