Damage totals climb for county after Mitchell-area flooding

Marcus Traxler
Forum News Service

MITCHELL, S.D. — By midafternoon on Sept. 16, Davison County Emergency Management director Jeff Bathke was finally able to take stock of where things stand after last week’s storms led to flooding that destroyed homes, displaced families and put county roads and bridges out of commission.

“There’s areas where you can drive a truck between where the bridge was and the road,” Bathke said.

Currently, 18 residents are still displaced to a hotel. Many more have found temporary housing with family and friends or in campers or RVs, Bathke said. Five homes and structures have collapsed basements, and Bathke said he anticipates that number could climb.

Bathke said he wants to hear from anyone who had property affected by even a small amount of water in order to receive as complete a picture of the damage as possible. The county set Sept. 18 as its deadline for those pictures and reports.

The county will be asking for homeowners to answer a 10- to 12-question survey, which will provide information on the level of the damage, septic damage, accessibility to the home, number of people displaced, insurance status and other details. (That questionnaire is available on the county’s website.)

“For any of these homes that are uninhabitable, they’re going to be on the short list,” he said.

The American Red Cross were in Mitchell on Sept. 19, and Bathke said one of the focuses will be finding short-term housing for those displaced by the flooding.

Bathke said the scope of the damage is broad and not specific to one part of the county.

“There are a lot of places that got hit hard; it wasn’t just one place,” he said.

Nine bridges in the county have been deemed either structurally unsafe or completely destroyed. The county is out of barricades for roadways but is still asking for people to contact them if they notice severe damage to a roadway. Bathke said their figures only include county roads, and he expects the number of destroyed roads to climb when the townships report their damage.

Maybe no other place in the county exhibits the power of the floodwaters more than the county’s bridge on Red Arrow Road (also known as 406th Avenue) between 459th and 460th streets, about 8 miles southwest of Mitchell.

“The county just rebuilt that entire road,” Bathke said. “Now, it’s a brand-new road that you can’t use because the bridge is out.”

The bridge is out on 411th Avenue, east of the Enemy Creek development and State Highway 37. On the west side of the county, four bridges are considered out of service in Union Township south of Mount Vernon, in a roughly 3-mile span.

“It’s amazing what the water has done to these structures,” he said. “These won’t be cheap to replace either.”

Bathke said that’s led to a public safety concern, specifically for fire and ambulance services. He said it’s easier to tell those services what roads they can take rather than what’s closed. He projects it will likely take an extra 20 minutes to reach some places.

“We’re hoping that we don’t have a major incident, because it’s going to take a long time to get those back open, maybe even a year for some of these bridges to be built back and replaced.”

Bathke said having pictures of damage is helpful for reporting to the Federal Emergency Management Administration in the case of getting public or individual assistance. There’s no guarantee of federal disaster funding, and the likelihood of FEMA individual assistance, which assists property owners after a disaster, is low in South Dakota, Bathke said.

“We’re doing really good, but it’s just a matter of keeping up on it and keeping everything organized for the long run,” he said.

The bridge along 406th Avenue, also called Red Arrow Road, between 259th and 260th streets was wiped out by the flooding last week southwest of Mitchell.
Several homes in the Loma Linda neighborhood were still flooded on Monday afternoon, Sept. 16, in the western part of Mitchell.