SIOUX FALLS, SD (KELO) — Emergency managers from across South Dakota spent the day preparing for worst-case scenarios in the event of flooding this spring and summer. Sioux Falls served as one nerve center where the mock emergency involved severe flooding along the Big Sioux River. This training exercise has added importance with the rapid spring snowmelt causing rivers to rise, for real.
The flood-related dispatches poured into the Emergency Operations Center in Sioux Falls, one after another.
“Exercise. South Dakota Highway Patrol is reporting South Dakota Highway 42 east of South Riverview Road is flooding near milepost 412.”
In this made-up scenario, the raging Big Sioux River is overflowing its banks.
“911 is receiving calls from residents on Garfield and East 3rd Street in Dell Rapids that their basements are flooding.”
It’s up to these emergency managers to decide how to respond as the floodwater keeps rising. Will they need to evacuate residents? Will they need to set up shelters? Will they need to close roads?
“At times, we’re overwhelmed and then we identify those resources and come up with a solution to the problem and a lot of times in these events, it just takes time,” Sioux Falls Emergency Manager Regan Smith said.
The staff here also has to prepare for problems that arise as a result of the flooding. Call it the emergencies within the emergency.
“There’s bus crashes happening. There are fires happening at state buildings or city buildings. Just various things that happen that you can’t avoid and that you have to navigate,” South Dakota Department of Public Safety Communications Director Kieran Tate said.
While the flood risk in the Sioux Falls area is low this spring, emergency managers say training like this can give the public peace of mind that they’ll be ready, just in case.
Similar training exercises took place in other emergency operations centers across South Dakota to ensure lines of communication are always open among state, county and local agencies that respond to natural disasters.