High Water a Problem in South Dakota; Governor Declares Emergency

March 27, 2009

The town of Westport, S.D., north of Aberdeen is being flooded by the Elm River and South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds has signed an emergency declaration allowing the use of state resources to help towns and cities respond to flooding.

The South Dakota Emergency Operations Center has been activated to coordinate the state response. The state also sent to Aberdeen four National Guard boats, 50,000 sandbags, and 50 penitentiary inmates to help with sandbagging operations.

The Elm River, one mile north of Westport, reached elevation of 22.69 feet on the morning of March 25, according to the National Weather Service. The previous high crest was 22.11 feet in April 1969.

“Westport is a mess,” said Aaron Dorn, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Aberdeen.

Two to three feet of water stood on most of the streets in the town of about 120 residents.

“It’s up a foot from where we ever thought it would be,” said Brown County Chief Deputy Sheriff Tom Schmitt, who was in Westport helping with the efforts.

“This is how fast it came in ’97,” said Lisa Ham. “Obviously, there’s no stopping Mother Nature. … We joked in ’97 that this was a 100-year flood and would never happen again. We were wrong.”

The high water on the Elm River can indirectly add to flooding problems in Aberdeen because the flood water flows over land into Moccasin Creek, which flows through eastern Aberdeen.

The maximum capacity for Moccasin Creek was 6.3 feet in Aberdeen, but was expected to crest at 7.3 feet.

Concerns about flooding could linger through the weekend, said Freddie Robinson, public information officer for flood responders.

Information from: Aberdeen American News, www.aberdeennews.com

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