TURNER COUNTY, S.D. (KELO) — Roads and ranches all across KELOLAND are getting put back together after devastating spring flooding.
In Turner County in southeast South Dakota, people are still dealing with washed out bridges and farms.
“Once it fills with water, everything slides around again and it’s a mess,” landowner Brad Rops said.
Rops and his family live south of Lennox. To say the drive to and from his 80 acre piece of land is an adventure, is a bumpy understatement.
“This has been a muddy mess. The neighbors have taken to doing their own maintenance here. Every day they take a tractor and a blade. They’ve knocked the ruts down and this is pretty good right now,” Rops said.
Rops says no cars have been off his property since mid-March, just trucks. His neighbors are stuck in the same pickle as well.
“They’re using a four wheel drive tractor to get up and down their driveway,” Rops said.
Lucky for them, they have a driveway. After a splashy trip, we finally arrive at the Rops home. As you can see, his driveway has washed away thanks to the nearby Vermillion River.
“We’ve been through it before. Last year we lost some of the dike or levee that’s around our farmyard. So we caught a lot more river current this time and it did a lot more damage,” Rops said.
Rops says after three inches of rain in early March, his family was stuck here for 12 days because of flooding. A lot of water and ice chunks ripped through the property they’ve lived on since 1991.
“Pretty much it’s taken all the rock and gravel and put it where we don’t want it. It’s dumped it in fields. It’s moved it out into my cattle yard. Out into the lawn,” Rops said.
To make matters worse, the morning we arrived, he had just gotten his tractor stuck trying to get pigs out to a trailer nearby so they could go to market.
“It just sank out of sight. So I’ve got that to get unstuck today and hopefully try to figure out another solution,” Rops said.
Everywhere you look at Rops’ farm, there’s damage. Tens of thousands of dollars worth. It will likely take all summer to get things back to the way they were.
Head out into the rest of Turner County and you’ll find similar issues.
“There’s a big reason we keep the roads closed around here. This is to keep the public safe so they do not drop a vehicle in hole that is similar to what’s behind us,” Turner County Emergency Manager Brad Georgeson said.
This washed out culvert is west of Parker and south of the local golf course.
“We’re in the millions of dollars of damage,” Georgeson said.
Georgeson says there are currently eight bridges closed because of flood damage.
“You might have to add one mile onto your trip and you might have to add 20 miles onto your trip to get to the same place where it would have taken considerably less time to get there on a normal, sunny day where roads are fine,” Georgeson said.
Truck traffic is limited right now and townships and municipalities are tallying up what it will take to repair everything. In the meantime, that has a big impact on farmers and ranches.
“It’s just another day in South Dakota. We’re here. We’ll get through this. We’ll make it but it’s just going to take time like anything else,” Georgeson said.
And a lot of patience and positivity. For Rops, this mess makes him think about selling his little corner of KELOLAND but he says he has the energy to persevere.
“Yes. We wondered about moving but we’ll keep trying. I don’t think most farmers are going to pack it in,” Rops said.
Still, it does take a toll.
“It’s discouraging. I don’t know. It’s part of life. We go through bad situations and I guess this time it was this area’s turn to take a hit. It can be tornados. It can be drought. Areas of the state that went through bad drought here the last couple of years. I guess I’d rather see things green then brown and crispy and dry. I won’t ever say I don’t want rain, but moderate amounts would be good,” Rops said.
Rops says the rain is causing a lot of trouble for just about everyone. He has another neighbor with 400 head of cattle ready for market but semis can’t get to the property.