Minnehaha County declares flooding disaster


SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – Area homes and county roads are still in rough shape; that’s why much of the state is asking for help. The Minnehaha County Commission is the latest group to approve a disaster declaration. Emergency manager Jason Gearman says county resources alone can’t handle all the damage. 

“What I’m here today is to declare that Minnehaha County is a disaster and we meet the criteria,” Gearman said. 

At Tuesday’s county commission meeting, Gearman said the trouble began with a storm on March 13.  More than a month later, Gearman says the county hasn’t officially ended the disaster due to recent rain and melting snow.

“It’s been a continuing event through all this, including the ice storm. We’ve had the power out by Hartford, Sioux Falls, the other weekend,” Gearman said. 

That’s why the county is asking for help from Governor Kristi Noem and the federal government. 

“Right now, the majority of our township roads are in horrible, horrible shape. It’s affecting the farmers, getting back and forth. Dairy farms are affected with the big trucks coming in,” Gearman said. 

Some of the worst spots include Ditch Road and County Highway 122, parts of which are still closed. Going forward, Commissioner Jeff Barth is suggesting the county follows Sioux Falls’ lead and look at buying properties in low lying areas to mitigate damage in the future. 

“Why do we need to do sandbagging every year for the same people? I think that’s a wise move by the city,” Barth said. 

Before the Commission unanimously approved the declaration, Commissioner Jean Bender praised emergency management teams for their responses. 

“I don’t disagree, we can always do a little better, but I think we have really made a lot of resources available and this is hopefully a step toward closing this flood season for 2019,” Bender said.

Gearman says there are only about three counties in the entire state of South Dakota that haven’t declared disasters.  He says this is a preliminary step, and now the request will go to the governor’s office. 

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