Wednesday, June 1, 2011

"Flood, flood, go away..."

This was a co-workers facebook status the other day. She's a newlywed and a new homeowner in Pierre. Her house is unexpectedly flooding. She's moved out. She's built a fortress around her home. This story is not unlike hundreds of people in the Pierre/Fort Pierre area.

Luckily, Cody and I live up on higher ground in Pierre. However, this isn't the case for dozens of our co-workers and even some close family members. Cody has an Aunt and Uncle who have basically moved from their home, built a 5-6 foot wall around their house. His cousin lives in an area that she's had to evacuate her home and their living temporarily in a camper. The Governor of South Dakota has now asked that everyone in the expected flood area evacuate their home by Thursday at 8:00 p.m. I cannot imagine leaving my home for an undetermined amount of time (like 1-2 months) and coming home to it destroyed by water.

None of this is expected to happen because of the massive Oahe Dam, just north of Pierre/Fort Pierre. It's the largest man-made earth rolled dam in the world. And the basin is full. To the top. Blame mother-nature, blame the folks managing the doesn't matter. The water is here. And the community members have pulled together and are fighting to hold their own during these exhausting times.

Here is Grace, up on a sandbag wall at her Great Aunt and Uncles house.

I think she thinks it's a normal, routine thing that people are doing. She doesn't know it's an emergency. To her, going to someones house to sandbag is the perfect place to make friends. Strangers will approach stranger's homes to see if they need help. They'll pitch in hours of grueling work to help save a home of someone they've never met before

This video was taken on May 29, 2011. This is just the start of the issues. The water release at this point was 85,000 cubic feet per second. The prior record was near 50,000 cfs. By June 14, the release level will reach 150,000 cfs.

Why? Because of record rainfall and precipation across the western states. North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, etc. All of the reserviors are fall. All of the release points have to sync up and release nearly the same amount at the same time. Montana, Bismarck/Mandan, Yankton, Dakota Dunes are all experiencing flooding. Pretty scary that this video already shows flooding, but the worst of what we're bound to be dealing with is yet to come. National Guard troops have been activated and are building very (we hope) helpful levies in the area to protect and help keep the water back.

Here are some pictures, these are all provided by the South Dakota Wing of the Civil Air Patrol.

Oahe Dam Overview. Credit: South Dakota Wing of the Civil Air Patrol.

Fort Pierre Streets. Credit: South Dakota Wing of the Civil Air Patrol.

Credit: South Dakota Wing of the Civil Air Patrol.

Fort Pierre, Dunes Drive. Water dangerously close. Credit: South Dakota Wing of the Civil Air Patrol.

Housing Development. North of Hwy 34 Bridge. Credit: South Dakota Wing of the Civil Air Patrol.

Oahe Dam Emergency Spillway. Credit:South Dakota Wing of the Civil Air Patrol.

Pierre Golf Course. Credit: South Dakota Wing of the Civil Air Patrol.

There are also some great photos on the Capitol Journal's flickr stream. The moving efforts, sandbagging efforts, and donations have been truly inspiring. It's amazing to see a community pull together. I'm glad to live in a community like this. I know that if we ever needed them, they'd be there for us, so now it's our time to assist them.

Also, of note, it's important to remember that we have to be grateful for the time that we have had to prepare for this flood. Although some may argue that it wasn't enough time, and that perhaps this was's important to remember that hundreds of people lose their belongings, homes and lives in a matter of seconds in tragic events like hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis, and earthquakes.

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