Highway 81 Reopens; Uncertainties Remain

Floodwaters from the James River continued to hound Yankton County Tuesday, although the levels are slowly receding. Until Tuesday, only one Yankton County bridge over the James was still open, that being the Highway 50 bridge east of Yankton. However, the fast flow of the river took out a chunk of riverbank near a residence located in the vicinity of the bridge. Workers spent the day shoring up the crumbled bank.

Yankton County is beginning to dry out after unprecedented flooding swept through the James River valley, but a number of unknowns remain to be answered.

How much damage has been done?

How much will repairs cost?

Will there be federal aid in the wake of this disaster, just as there was after March’s flooding?

These questions have yet to be answered, but officials are starting to take a look at what’s next.

Yankton County Director of Emergency Management Paul Scherschligt told the Press & Dakotan that he will be appearing before the Yankton County Commission today (Wednesday) to get the ball rolling on helping to take care of some of those unknowns.

“We’re doing the (disaster) declaration now,” Scherschligt said. “We don’t know if we have an infrastructure damage because all of the bridges still have water around them or they can’t do sonar work. We’re going to do the declaration so that when the time comes, we’ve already done the busy work.”

He said it also helps on individual assistance in case the state decides to provide it as well.

Scherschligt said it will be some time before assessments of damage can begin.

“It’s going to take us a couple of days or maybe even a week to get out there and get the preliminary stuff done,” he said. “We’ll get out there as soon as we can, but we’re not even allowed back in there yet without a canoe.”

Tuesday also saw an additional road closure due to the flooding in Yankton County.

“Gayville Township closed another road — 446th Ave. between 309th St. and Highway 50,” Scherschligt said. “It’s really close to the river and they’re starting to get a lot of erosion. … They just closed it down for precautionary measures. There’s no water over it.”

One main thoroughfare through Yankton County has been allowed to reopen.

According to South Dakota Department of Transportation (SDDOT) area engineer Rod Gall, Highway 81 reopened at noon Tuesday.

“On Highway 81, the damage was very minimal,” Gall told the Press & Dakotan. “We did have some shoulder material that washed out alongside it. We will be doing that when we get more time. We will be repairing those areas under traffic.”

He said that Highway 46 in Yankton County would still remain closed until at least today.

“It still has some water on one of the lanes,” he said. “We’ll probably be keeping it closed overnight until it goes down enough so it doesn’t become a safety factor.”

He said the situation will be reassessed around 7 a.m. this morning.

For an updated list of county road closures, visit http://ims.districtiii.org/closedroads/.

Also Tuesday, on the south side of the Highway 50 bridge over the James River, officials were keeping an eye on a house near a point that has seen significant erosion as a result of this week’s flooding.

“They put a bunch of rip rap in years past along the house there,” Scherschligt said. “As soon as you get to the south of the house, it’s caved in and ate away a bunch of the bank. It’s just unbelievable (seeing) the big hole there. They were having a couple of contractors hauling in rock and whatever to try and stop the erosion.”

He said that he was unsure of whether or not the house itself was under direct threat from the river, but he would be checking in on the situation later Tuesday evening.

As of 6 p.m. Tuesday, the Yankton gauge on the James River was at 23.4 feet, down from 24.7 feet on Monday.

At Scotland, the river was recorded at 19.26 feet Tuesday evening, down from 19.8 feet Monday.

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As waters begin to recede along the James River, many people will be able to start returning to homes that may have been damaged in the flood.

Residents are still being urged to call 211 and document their damages.

On Tuesday, the Yankton County Office of Emergency Management sent out a press release announcing they have free clean up kits available to the public.

The release also had a number of tips for working on flood damaged property, including:

• “A flood can introduce a number of health risks to your home, so you’ll want to protect yourself accordingly. Wear protective clothing, including overalls, gloves and rubber boots. If there was any sewage water involved in the flood wear protective eye glasses and a face mask to protect yourself from harmful gases.”

• “Avoid any electrical equipment or sockets until they are inspected by a licensed electrician or inspector. Even though the electricity has been turned off there is still a small chance of shock.  When it comes time to restoring the power, the building owner will be required to supply a certificate from a licensed electrician or inspector before the utility company will restore your services. The same is true with Natural Gas or Propane users, you need to check with your provider to make sure it is safe to turn it back on.”

• “Once the water has been removed from your home via a submersible or sump pump, clean up the area as soon as possible to prevent mold and mildew.  Shovel out debris while it is still wet, hose off walls and furnishings. Rinse it several times. You want to remove the dirt before it dries and hardens. If raw sewage in your home is a possibility, throw everything out. Sanitize everything that is salvageable. Use 1 cup of bleach per one gallon of water. Set up a dehumidifier and make sure everything is dried thoroughly.”

• “The Yankton Landfill will be accepting items immediately from flood impacted homes. Their hours are 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 1-5 p.m. on Sundays. Their address is 1200 W 23rd Street. If you have specific questions, please call them at 605-668-5212.”

For further information on flood cleanup, visit http://www.co.yankton.sd.us/custom/emergency-management

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