ARLINGTON, S.D. (KELO) — We’re only half way through February, but a lot of people are already thinking spring, and not in a good way.
Weather forecasters are predicting there could be widespread flooding all across the state again this year. One area hit hard by high water and strong winds last year was Lake Poinsett.
People living around the lake are hoping history doesn’t repeat itself.
Lake Poinsett. Big in size, short on forgiveness.
During a typical summer, it’s a beautiful place to recreate. But last year was anything but typical.
First it was ice, then heavy rain followed by violent wind.
They sent across a wave of emotions for people who have lake homes here; like Candy VanDam.
“The waters came up, the wind came up and the ice came up,” VanDam said.
The water got so high and the winds so strong they literally beat VanDam’s house so badly it was no longer livable.
“We made the decision that we would take the house down raise the elevation on the property by about four feet and rebuild,” VanDam said.
John Hurley, who owns Hurley Excavating, used his excavator to demolish her home. But he also spent countless hours trying to help home owners, like VanDam, rebuild their shorelines.
Hurley was also a flood victim. His campground was seriously damaged by floodwaters, too.
“Seventy-percent of it is still in standing water,” Hurley said.
His fears are just as high, because he thinks it could happen again.
“It is not looking good,” Hurley said. “I’m preparing for the worst, I’m preparing it to be worse than last year.”
Hurley could be right.
“We want people to have a good understanding of what they may be facing again this spring,”
David Schaefer, Hamlin County’ Emergency Manager, says anyone living along Lake Poinsett is walking on thin ice. That’s because the water tables in the area are at record capacity, the lake is already 2 to 3 feet over full and the snowpack has 2 to 3 inches of moisture.
Schaefer says they’ve been looking over that data from the National Weather Service and Army Corps of Engineers and have been meeting and making preparations since Christmas.
“We’re trying to gather as much information as we can to try and get a handle on what we may see, of course the big unknown is February and March,” Schaefer said.
“We got an inventory of sand bags on hand and we’ve already talked with our contractor who will deliver sand again this year and all those plans have been well underway for weeks and weeks now,” Schaefer said.
He says everyone in the area, not just lake homeowners, but everyone should start doing what they can, now, to protect their properties.
“All indications are we are going to experience some degree of flooding again,” Schaefer said.
That’s why Hurley is taking action. He has bought dozens of large concrete panels.
“We are going to attempt to build sea walls with these concrete wall slabs,” Hurley said.
It’s all in an attempt to protect shorelines.
“I own 700 feet of shorelines on Lake Poinsett and the first wall we build is going to be my beach, we are going to build a sea wall on that whole stretch, so I can get some of those campgrounds back,” Hurley said.
“You know you kind of know it’s coming, but there’s really nothing you can do about it,” Schaefer said.
Schaefer says his warning is not to scare, but rather to get people to prepare.
VanDam says they will rebuild and they’ll be ready.
“Part of living at the lake is dealing with what mother nature throws at you,” VanDam said.
To learn more about potential flooding this year, our digital reporter Rae Yost has put together a story on flooding at Lake Poinsett and a story on flooding in other areas of eastern South Dakota.
You can find those right now in a Keloland.com original.