A River On The Rise

BY RANDY DOCKENDORF

The lower James River basin could start receiving a new round of heavy flooding today (Friday), according to a Yankton County official.

"In the past 24 to 48 hours, rainfall totals in and around the James River basin have increased significantly. Therefore, it’s causing the James River to rise again," Emergency Manager Paul Scherschligt said in a press release Thursday.

Previously flooded areas are particularly likely to see new flooding, Scherschligt said.

"If you’ve had areas that have flooded in the past, please start making preparations for the potential of very high waters," he said. "The South Dakota Office of Emergency Management has informed us that the potential for high waters on the James River is likely to occur within the next 24 to 48 hours."

The James River has already experienced flooding for months. The river, one of the flattest in the world, has received sustained precipitation on top of saturated soil, leaving the floodwaters with nowhere to go.

The severity of the new flooding remains a question, Scherschligt said. However, the flood duration could last into the foreseeable future, he added.

"At this time, it is uncertain how high the flood stage of the river will go and/or how fast it will rise," he said. "The Yankton County Emergency Management office is asking that everyone stay alert and watch the river gauges on the James River for the next few weeks."

The flooding was already taking a toll Thursday night. The Press & Dakotan received a report that Stone Church Road south of Menno was closed once again because of water over the road.

Flooding from this week’s heavy rainfall will remain a significant concern, according to the National Weather Service (NWS) office in Sioux Falls. Low-lying and poor drainage areas, as well as smaller creeks and streams, will continue to exhibit flooding.

The James River basin has been bombarded by large amounts of rainfall this week. In a two-day period through Thursday morning, Forestburg received 1.95 inches; a site one mile west of Mitchell received 9.49 inches, with other Mitchell areas reporting 6.4-7.6 inches.

In Hutchinson County, Dimock reported 5.32 inches of rainfall, Parkston 6.78 inches and a site four miles west of Tripp 6.22 inches.

The rainfall totals were lower to the south, as 1.21 inches was reported two miles east of Yankton. Gayville received 1.07 inches.

Other significant regional rainfall reports were Emery 8.14 inches, Academy 6.31 inches, Stickney 5.68 inches, Burke 5.65 inches, Lake Andes 5.51 inches, Gregory 5.17 inches, Hurley 4.59 inches and Marion 3.59 inches.

The National Weather Service has issued James River flood warnings for Mitchell, Scotland and Yankton until further notice.

At Mitchell, the stage was 23.42 feet at 2 p.m. Thursday, with the flood stage at 17 feet. The forecast calls for the river to crest near 24 feet by Sunday.

At Scotland, the river reached 18.9 feet as of 3 p.m. Thursday with a forecast that the river will crest near 19.9 feet by Saturday. The flood stage is 13 feet.

At stages near 20 feet, flooding will cover Highway 44 between Parkston and Freeman, Highway 46 west of Irene, Stone Church Road between Highway 46 and Menno, Highway 81 north of Yankton and the Jamesville Colony Road in northern Yankton County.

At the Johnson River near Yankton, the James River has risen above flood stage and stood at 14.51 feet as of 3 p.m. Thursday. Moderate flooding is occurring, and major flooding is forecast.

The river is expected to crest near 20.3 feet by Tuesday. The flood stage is 12 feet.

At 10:32 a.m. Thursday, emergency management reported thunderstorms with heavy rain overnight Wednesday had resulted in widespread flooding. Portions of highway 46, 37 and 44 were closed due to flooding with numerous county roads, bridges, and culverts also experiencing flooding. Travel may be difficult or impossible in some areas due to flooding, particularly on secondary roads.

Some locations that will experience flooding include Mitchell, Parkston, Lake Andes, Pickstown, Wagner, Platte, Armour, Tripp, Alexandria, Burke, Corsica, Mount Vernon, Ethan, Stickney, Delmont, Geddes, Kaylor, Dimock, Milltown and Herrick.

The Press & Dakotan was informed that the Menno school district wasn’t holding classes today (Friday) because of flooding concerns.

The James River isn’t the only waterway experiencing heavy flooding. The National Weather Service had forecast flooding for the Vermillion River in southeast South Dakota.

Turner County had set up a station in Parker for individuals wanting to self-fill sandbags, according to Emergency Manager Brad Georgeson.

"Turner County has sand and bags placed in the south parking lot of the fairgrounds in the northeast corner. It is near the livestock buildings," he posted on Facebook. "There (are) no hours of operation at this site and is open to the public 24/7."

The flooding looks to continue for quite some time, Georgeson wrote.

"Several areas are experiencing high water in the county right now," he posted. "More water is expected to enter the county in the next several days."

The forecast for the Yankton region calls for warmer, dry weather during the next several days. The forecast high temperatures are in 73 degrees today, rising to the mid- to upper 80s for much of the next week.

——

UPDATE: The Freeman Courier reported Thursday that Wolf Creek Colony, 10 mile west of Freeman, had sustained major flooding damage. The water was already high from previous rainfall, and Thursday morning the water breeched the dike protecting the colony buildings and sending water across the colony’s low-lying area. The water pushed through an emergency secondary dike.

Friends and relatives from other Hutterite colonies arrived to assist in relocating Wolf Creek residents.

School was dismissed at noon at the Wolf Creek and neighboring Tschetter colony schools.

Superintendent Kevin Kunz told the Courier that the administration will review the situation. However, it appears classes won’t be held at the Wolf Creek Colony school for the foreseeable future, he told the newspaper.

To monitor the James River gauges, visit the NWS website for Sioux Falls.

Follow @RDockendorf on Twitter.

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