October 17, 2019

County ratifies emergency disaster declaration - Daily Leader Extra : Top Stories

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County ratifies emergency disaster declaration

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Posted: Friday, September 13, 2019 3:24 pm

The Lake County Commissioners ratified an emergency declaration on Friday morning in order to make as many resources as possible available to those in the county affected by flooding.

The area received nearly 12 inches of rain in two days which caused flooding to begin in Madison on Wednesday morning. The water was expected to crest at Lake Madison and Brant Lake around noon on Friday.

Commissioners heard from Lake County Emergency Management Director Kody Keefer, Lake County Sheriff Tim Walburg and Lake County highway foreman Tim Tolley prior to ratifying the resolution. The declaration had been signed by Lake County Commission Chairperson Kelli Wollmann on Thursday and submitted to the state. The meeting was preceded and followed by media briefings in the training room of the Madison Police Department.

Keefer told commissioners the National Weather Service has confirmed the flood currently exceeds the 100-year flood mark, but has not reached the 500-year flood mark. He also indicated officials are relying on maps to estimate how high the water has reached because the county does not have gauges such as those found along the Big Sioux River.


He reported that Bethel Lutheran Home was evacuated Thursday night as a precaution. The evacuation began at approximately 7 p.m. and residents were moved to The Community Center or to Madison Regional Health System.

Public Information Officer Sgt. Aaron Talich indicated in a briefing that water did not reach any of the Bethel structures, but the water had come close.

Keefer also reported that between 1/8 and 1/4 of Madison remains without power. Talich said that service is intermittent in town, not localized to a specific area.

Madison's city wastewater plant has been overloaded and is not able to take in or treat sewage. Keefer said this is of concern in the Emergency Operations Center because of water backing into basements. Local officials are working with the state Department of Energy and Natural Resources as well as with the state Department of Health to monitor the situation.


Generally, no lives are in danger, according to Keefer.

"There still is the possibility for issues if people get crazy," he said.

Included in the crazy behavior is driving around barricades. Because roadways are washed out, and because of the strong moving current, individuals who drive around the barricades put rescue workers as well as themselves at risk.

"Don't put your life or anyone else's in danger," Talich said during a briefing.

Local law enforcement has stated and reiterated that fines will be levied against anyone who drives around a barricade. The information has also been posted on Facebook. The fine for driving around a barricade is $222.50.

"Do not drive around barricades," Walburg instructed. "It is taking away from the resources to respond to other emergencies."

Currently, all north-south streets in Madison are closed. Drivers are being directed to take 3rd Street east to 457th Avenue in order to reach the southern part of town, according to Talich.


All of those who spoke with commissioners emphasized the situation is constantly changing, especially road closures.

To indicate how fast the water rose on Thursday, Walburg talked about Territorial Road east of Lake Herman. At 11 a.m., the road was showing some issues. Twenty minutes later the water had crested the road, and within 45 minutes water was over the road.

"We got everyone out of there except two residents," Walburg reported.

One of those residents declined to leave, but the other did leave with a camper shortly after being contacted.

Walburg said Lake Herman crested about 4:30 p.m. on Thursday. He said Gov. Kristi Noem had intended to tour the flooding in that area, but was not able to do so because water was over the road on Highland Avenue by that time.

Walburg explained the water in Lake Herman continued to rise after Memorial Creek began to recede because it was being fed from the west and south.

In the later briefing, Walburg stated the spillway at Lake Herman did not give way. He said the county was forced to use resources which could have been used to address the emergency to squelch that unfounded rumor.


After flowing through town along Silver Creek, the water flows into Lake Madison, which has begun to see issues, and into Brant Lake.

Water was at the top of the spillway between Lake Madison and Long Lake by Friday morning and expected to go over the spillway before day's end, according to Walburg. At the later briefing, he said some areas are already being affected.

The campground and golf course near the spillway are flooded, and that water on the north side of Brant Lake has reached the homes. In addition, 464th Avenue south of Chester is completely under water, and the water continues to rise.

"Hopefully, by this evening, that will have crested," Walburg said regarding the water in Lake Madison and Brant Lake.


Tolley indicated county and township roads have been affected in four or five dozen areas. The county has issues with five bridges, including the one south of Chester which is scheduled for replacement.

In addition, County Road 29, also known as 457th Avenue, has been closed between 228th and 229th street because the bridge is out. On County Road 52, also known as 464th Avenue, Tolley said the water is over the road and he has concerns about some box culverts.

"The water is too high. I can't see what is going on with that," he indicated.

He noted two locations where culverts have been washed out: near the site for the new dairy, and on 227th Street where there are two five- to six-foot culverts.

"All the problems we had this spring have resurfaced," Walburg said.

"It's going to take a lot of money to fix these roads," Tolley added.

He noted one difference between this flood and the flood in 1993: there is not time this year for the water to recede before winter sets in. He expressed concerns about this.

Those reporting to commissioners also noted there is an inadequate supply of barricades in the county at this time, although Noem was able to get four from Watertown for Lake County. Commissioner Deb Reinicke asked Tolley if local contractors had been contacted to see if they had any to loan. That had not been done.

The barricades are being moved as the need shifts.

"If the road is completely washed out, that's where the barricades are needed," Walburg said.

Farmers are being asked not to block the roadways with hay bales. While their intentions are good, they may create additional problems if the bales are washed into creeks.


Walburg reported that emergency services were compromised on Thursday because of problems with the AT&T tower, which provides services for many of the area first responders. The tower was being powered by a generator. When it ran out of gas, service ceased.

Talich indicated at a briefing that the facility is locked and inaccessible. He also said AT&T did not rectify the problem as quickly as possible after being notified. As of Friday morning, AT&T had not addressed the issue.

Walburg indicated those in the EOC could connect to the WiFi there and that the City's utility tower was also used at times. He explained that the tower he requested during budget meetings would have helped.

"If we had that one, we'd be OK," Walburg said.

CALL 211

At both the commission meeting and media briefings, an emphasis has been put on calling 211 for all non-emergency help. Those requests are channeled through the EOC and the appropriate assistance is identified.

"That's solely what we're relying on to get people the help they need," Talich said.

This is true for those who need sandbags as well as other kinds of assistance. A sandbagging station has been set up at the county shop and is manned with volunteers to assist people.

The city is also advising people to place on the curb building materials, such as carpet and sheetrock, which must be removed from structures that saw flooding. Other community residents are asked not to remove these items because this evidence is necessary for homeowners to make insurance claims.

Wollmann noted during the commission meeting that citizens have been stepping up to volunteer.

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