South Dakotans fear a wet spring will lead to more flooding

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — Weather data indicates the flood risk is high in South Dakota this spring following widespread floods and record precipitation last year in the state.

After a wet fall, rivers and the ground are already saturated with water, said Mike Gillispie, a state climatologist for the National Weather Service. If the trend continues through the winter and spring, it could spell another year of flooding, he told KELO-TV.

“Our biggest fear is big rains for us, we don’t need any more snow, the rest of the way; realistically, we probably don’t need any rain until the Fourth of July,” said Darren Ihnen, a farmer from Hurley.

Ihnen has suffered flooding two years in a row and was not able to plant his fields last year. The state led the nation in unplanted farmland in 2019 with nearly 4 million acres left without a crop.

Persistent floods damaged his home so badly that the mold made his wife sick. They made the difficult decision to tear the structure down and start over. They are living in two small cabins while their new home is built

According to the National Weather Service, several rivers, including the James and Big Sioux, are at risk of flooding. Gillespie said the water table, rivers, and soil moisture are all higher than normal. The risk for flooding will only increase in the spring due to rain and snow melt.

“We don’t have any room to store any water right now as we head into the spring,” Gillispie said.

Many residents are still recovering from last year's extreme weather. Damaged roads could become even worse if flooding hits again this spring. The state received four presidential disaster declarations last year, in addition to the Oglala Sioux Tribe receiving one for storms and flooding.

Gillespie said the amount of precipitation in the last two years is unlike anything on record.

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