Eye On KELOLAND: Man and his machine


SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — It’s been a tough year for people living along Lake Poinsett. Between huge ice chunks, severe flooding and strong winds a lot of cabins and homes along the shorelines took a beating.

But it probably could have been a lot worse if not for the tireless efforts of one man.

These are just some of the images frozen in the minds of those who live around Lake Poinsett. A chilling reminder that they’re no match for Mother Nature.

But don’t say that to John Hurley. He lives here too and he’s fought the adverse weather as well.

“I personally own about 900 feet of shoreline that’s pretty much wiped out, I haven’t really had time to go mess with my own stuff,” Hurley said.

That’s because when ice chunks crushed cabins and shorelines this past spring, it was Hurley and his excavator to the rescue.

When high water and strong winds battered homes and businesses this summer, again it was Hurley who answered the call for help.

“We started working every day in March, and I’ve probably only taken six days off this year,” Hurley said.

Hurley has used his excavator to fix shorelines, raise roads and move cabins. People around here credit him with saving dozens of properties from mother nature’s wrath and he’s still doing it, even as the weather turns colder.

Right now he says it’s a race against the clock.

“Our window to get this done is not gonna last forever. The way the weather trend has been working, as it seems, like we’re going to get beat up a lot harder than we normally do. I mean, it feels like we’re going to have an early winter, but I guess you know, mother nature will tell us the answer to that one,” Hurley said.

Michael Haug and his wife have lived along the lake for 42 years. They say Hurley has helped save their house, not once, not twice, but three times.

“In 2011, when we had a really bad flood, he came and rip wrapped our 80 foot frontage in front of our house and in that spring the water came up to here almost to our walkout basement,” Haug said.

Haug says Hurley came in with his excavator and made quick work of what needed to be done to protect his home.

“John came in and he took the rock out and laid the fabric down and he put native rocks back in there and also the granite blocks and this year, it would roll right up to there, even in the high wind, and it would go back and that saved our lot again,” Haug said.

Willie Sanchez’s house was also saved by Hurley.

“Our house is as high as it is right now, because John lifted it with dirt and gravel, he’s just instrumental in everything, instrumental in everything that is happening now,” Sanchez said.

What’s happening right now is Hurley is raising the road in front of several of these homes, because this year it’s been constantly underwater.

“Everywhere I go on the lake I see him and I said, you need to hire some people and he said nah, I’m the one who knows how to do it and I’m the one who’s going to do it,” Sanchez said.

But it’s not just Lake Poinsett where you’ll find Hurley making a difference. He also used his excavator to rescue dozens of campers at Lake Thompson that had been sitting in high water all year.

He’s been so busy, he really hasn’t had a lot of time to attend to his own property at Lake Poinsett.

“I have a five-acre campground that’s been flooded all year. It’s currently still underwater and I’m thinking it’s going to be underwater next year,” Hurley said.

Hurley rescued a lot of the campers that were sitting in water this summer, but he hasn’t been able to rescue everything like bikes and grills.

“I was notified by the sheriff’s department that the state’s attorney wants him to charge me with littering. So, I know I’ll get a crew together and we’ll go and try to go out there and wade through the mud and clean up stuff. I thought I did good I evacuated my campground when no one else was evacuated there’s no like lake Thompson they’re hiring us to haul campers out, because their campers all got stuck in there. Well we at least saved all the campers from getting flooded at our place I thought we were doing pretty good,” Hurley said.

And he has, just ask anyone who he’s helped. They’ll tell you Mother Nature may have won a few rounds, but not without a fight.

“No he’s tough, and he’s a hard workers,” Sanchez said.

“We’ve depended on him for doing work like that for us and you know our house wouldn’t be saved if it hadn’t been for that kind of work,

“This is what trust we have in John when he says he’s going to do something he’s going to get it done,” Sanchez said.

Hurley also saved campers at Oakwood Lakes north of Brookings.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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