October 18, 2019

Rescue efforts coordinated from EOC - Daily Leader Extra : Top Stories

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Rescue efforts coordinated from EOC

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Posted: Thursday, September 12, 2019 3:42 pm

Despite having worked through the wee hours of the morning to ensure the safety of area residents, those manning the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) on Thursday morning hadn't lost their sense of humor.

When asked around 9 a.m. where it started -- "it" intended to mean the local response -- Madison Police Chief Justin Meyer quipped, "Well, it started to rain and then it stopped and then it rained some more."

Lake County Sheriff Tim Walburg and Madison Fire Chief Randy Minnaert were among those to laugh. They had been working since 5 a.m. from the city's commission room to coordinate the local response to flooding around the Madison area.

Madison received 6.46 inches of rain overnight Wednesday on top of 5.44 inches overnight Tuesday, as measured at the Madison Municipal Airport. This led to flooding in some areas on Wednesday morning and more severe flooding by early Thursday.

The city sent out a text message shortly after 4:30 a.m. advising no travel and posted a message on Facebook around 5 a.m., indicating power would not be restored in parts of the city until it was safe to do so.

Dakota State University and all area schools canceled school for the day.

Meyer said that by 1 a.m., barricades on city streets were being moved back in response to rising waters. Although the exact time when the city lost power is not known, by 2 a.m., the city was dark.

"It went quickly from there," Walburg said.

In the EOC on Thursday morning, road closures were noted on laminated maps, and notes were being taken on yellow legal pads as crews checked in.

Meyer said evacuations began between 2:30 and 3 a.m. The area most affected lay between N.E. 3rd Street and S.E. 1st east of Washington Avenue. However, both N. Harth Avenue and N. Lee Avenue were affected between the 300 and 400 blocks.

"We didn't do any forced evacuations. We did voluntary evacuations," he explained.

While some people could walk out, boats were used to rescue three people, two of the responders using personal boats in these efforts. In addition, where other vehicles could not safely approach homes, a payloader was used.

"They would drive the payloader up to the front step and they'd step in the bucket," Meyer said, explaining how the rescues were effected.

First responders also had to rescue stranded motorists. This was true in the county as well as in the city. Walburg said the Wentworth Volunteer Fire Department and deputies rescued motorists stranded near the Dakota Ethanol plant on SD-34.

The water crested by 6 a.m., according to Meyer, and has begun to recede. However, Walburg said there are still some concerns in the county.

"What we're worried about is Lake Herman. It's at the top of its banks," he said.

Water pouring over the spillway is already backing up behind the houses along Territorial Road. A deputy did check the area and determined that both the roadway and houses were safe.

"If it [Lake Herman] gets more water, where is it going to go?" Walburg said, asking a rhetorical question.

Both city streets and county roads are barricaded in some areas due to the flooding. However, the county faces other challenges.

"The county Highway Department is out assessing some of the problem culverts," Walburg said. "Right now, they are closing off sections as we speak."

To date, no one has been rescued in the county. Considering the number of lakeside properties, Walburg is not ruling out that possibility should there be additional rainfall.

Minnaert said firefighters responded immediately upon being contacted earlier this morning. In addition to adding manpower to rescue efforts, firemen were able to offer the use of equipment owned by their employers.

There have been no medical emergencies as a result of the flooding. However, in several instances, individuals with medical conditions have been transported to the hospital to be checked after being evacuated, according the Minnaert.

"We did have some fire calls, but no true fires. There were some alarm issues with the power outage and getting wet," he said about 9:30 a.m.

Responding agencies have included not only the Police Department and Sheriff's Office but also the state Highway Patrol, city street crews, state Department of Game, Fish & Parks, county Highway Department and East River Electric, which provided equipment used for evacuations.

First responders are hopeful an end is in sight.

"Hopefully, the rain will clear off and we'll get that sunshine they're promising," Meyer said.

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