Sioux Falls Patients Displaced By Storm Transferred To HSC

A tornado that struck Sioux Falls late Tuesday night blew out doors and glass at the Avera Heart Hospital of South Dakota.

The Yankton area is lending its hand to storm-ravaged Sioux Falls.

The Human Services Center (HSC) has opened three shuttered units to patients from the Avera Behavioral Health Center in Sioux Falls which took a direct hit from one of the three tornados to strike Sioux Falls Tuesday night.

Thomas Otten, assistant vice president of Avera Behavioral Health, told the Press & Dakotan that the center’s staff acted quickly Tuesday evening.

"We had an amazing response from our staff to get our patients all into a safe area prior to that tornado," Otten said. "We had about a 10-minute warning. … We had very minor injuries for a few patients. We are very blessed that we lost the building but we did not lose people in the process."

He said that there were 102 patients at the Behavioral Health Center that would need to be placed elsewhere as a result of the heavy damage to the building.

In addition to other regional facilities, one that Avera staff reached out to was HSC.

"We have been working, starting in the middle of the night (Tuesday) night, with the Human Services Center," he said. "(We’ve been) partnering with the state to see if we could open a couple of units down at the Human Services Center that have been closed for some time."

He said that two 15-bed units and a 20-bed unit that had previously been closed were prepared throughout the day Wednesday to accept patients. As of Wednesday afternoon, Otten said he was expecting between 30-40 adult patients would be transferred down to HSC that evening, with hopes of having them all relocated by 10 p.m.

"The state has been a great partner in trying to assist us in getting those units prepared and ready," Otten said. "Those will actually be units that Avera will be running, not the state. They’ll be staffed by Avera, run by Avera and managed by Avera."

Much of the 250 staff from the Avera Behavioral Health Center will be working in the units on the HSC campus as clean-up and repairs progress at the Center.

Otten said that this is not going to be a short situation given the damage that has occurred at the Sioux Falls facility.

"There’s a significant amount of damage — the building took a direct hit from a tornado," he said. "Four of our five units were unusable immediately (Tuesday) night."

He added that a time frame for how long the Behavioral Health Center will be offline remains to be seen.

"We know that it will not be a short-term (situation)," he said. "It will not be a few days or a few weeks. It will be something we’ll have to set up for the foreseeable future. We’re going to get, hopefully, an updated report from the construction company by the end of the day (Thursday) to give us at least some kind of timeline of what it might take to rebuild."

Otten said that, in spite of the tornado, there are many blessings to count.

"While it was a very tragic event, we feel incredibly blessed that we did not lose any staff or patients," he said. "There were no injuries that were of a very significant nature. We’ve had an outpouring from our community and all kinds of different agencies willing and wanting to assist and help us. Our staff have been phenomenal throughout this process — not only in the event, but throughout the process working today in a variety of different places. … We are filled with hope about the future and we know that hope does not disappoint.


The Yankton airport received 1.06 inches of rain from Tuesday’s stormy weather. Other unofficial area rainfall totals from Tuesday night/Wednesday morning included: near Parkston, 5.15 inches; near Hurley, 4.31; near Delmont, 4:15; near Dante, 4.10; near Corsica, 3.80; near Avon, 3.38; near Menno, 3.30; near Wagner, 2.98; near Lake Andes, 2.71; near Marion, 2.66; near Armour, 2.22; near Dimock, 2.00; near Jefferson, 1.25; near Elk Point, 1.19; near Tabor, 1.10; near Vermillion, 1.07; near Gayville, 0.85.

Parts of southeastern South Dakota, northwestern Iowa and southwestern Minnesota were under a flash flood watch until 7 a.m. today (Thursday) due to the possibility of more heavy rain late Wednesday and early this morning.


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