Flooding fears already rising

Eye on KELOLAND

It’s only January, but there are already early signs another wet spring could be on the horizon, creating widespread flooding once again.

That’s not the kind of news farmers want to hear.

Last year, the flooding was so bad in many areas, a lot of them never even got a crop in the ground.

Darrin and Becky Ihnen, who farm nearly Hurley, faced a flood of problems.

This home video, captured on their phone, shows just how high the water got in the farmyard and their front yard.

“We were standing right in front of our garage and that was two days before the peak and so, it’s just, you know, we had to get in our tractors and it was not even safe to go in and out with tractors, because the water was four feet deep on the road and so it was pretty nerve wracking,” Ihnen said.

Their big fuel tank even floated 200 yards to the south; where it still rests today.

To make matters worse, Ihnen says this was the second year in a row they experienced flooding and this past year hit them hard with their crops.

“Personally, we did not get any acres planted ourselves,” Darrin said.

Not a single acre of corn or soybeans. But it wasn’t just their crops being affected.

Because they’ve flooded two years in a row, the high water caused major mold issues in their home, which was making his wife sick. So they had to tear it down and live in these two small cabins while their new home was being built.

It now sits three feet higher. Even so, Ihnen and a lot of others in the area feel like they’re walking on thin ice.

“Last spring we flooded bad, ice, and all that and I told my wife I said ‘it’s never been this bad, it’ll never get this bad again,’ Darrin said.

But now judging by what he’s seeing around his farm with ditches, creeks and snowpack, he’s starting to believe that might not be true.

“We’ve got high ground water, our creeks are still running even the middle of January, never froze up and so I I think a lot of farmers in the area are just concerned that we’re one big rain away from a repeat of 2019,” Darrin said.

State Climatologist Mike Gillispie of the National Weather Service has been looking over the data and he’s worried.

He says since the National Weather Service started keeping track of water tables and river flows he’s never seen data quite as disturbing as this.

“Basically we were starting things out late fall into the winter, wetter than we’ve been ever on record, as far as the water tables higher than it’s been, the rivers are higher than normal, soil moisture is saturated just yet we don’t have any room to store any water right now as we head into the spring,” Gillispie said.

Gillispie says the next two months of snowy weather are going to be telling.

“The chances of us not getting anything for the next couple months, you know is very slim, you know, we’re going to see some snow over the course over the next couple of months, it’s just a matter of how much that snow pack builds up between now and March, and what the water content of this snowpack is before we’ll see if we can have a nice, even with some snow falling over the next couple of months, if we don’t get a lot of rain on top of that March into April, and a nice slow melt, the impacts are going to be much less than what we saw last year,” Gillispie said.

That’s what worries farmers like Ihnen, who speaks from experience.

“Our biggest fear is big rains for us, we don’t need any more snow, the rest of the way; realistically, we probably don’t need any rain until the Fourth of July, and living in South Dakota, you’re hoping for rain by May to get the crops started; it’s just that wet,” Ihnen said.

“You know, we’ve had wet periods before, obviously nothing like we’ve seen the last two years; we set record precipitation here in Sioux Falls in 2018, we broke that record in 2019, let’s hope we don’t go for three in a row,” Gillispie said.

This is a story that will continue to unfold in the coming months. To keep up-to-date on water levels of area rivers, click here to get to the National Weather Service’s web site.

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