DIGGING DEEPER: The Road to Recovery

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(KTIV) –  It was a disaster that touched all of Siouxland — flooding that came out of nowhere in mid-March.

Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota all felt the impact of flooding rivers and creeks that caused some people to have to be evacuated.

While many people have been allowed to go back home, what they returned to will take months and even years for them to get back to some semblance of normalcy.

People in communities like Norfolk, Nebraska were evacuated during March’s flooding in the state.

While it’s been over a month and a half since the historic flooding, there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done.

The flooding all started back on March 13 after a combination of heavy rainfall, rapidly melting snow, and partially frozen ground all came together to create the perfect storm.

In Nebraska, the flooding was so dangerous and fast, it caused the Spencer Dam to wash away.

Just down the river in Niobrara, Nebraska, businesses were completely wiped out by the water, including a major bridge that connects the two sides of the Village.

In Norfolk, people were evacuated and shelters were opened up because of the flooding and concern over the levee system.

Residents in communities like Hornick, Iowa, were forced from their homes for days following the flooding.

Some residents of Pierce, Nebraska, were evacuated from their homes because of the flooding in a mandatory evacuation.

And in Hornick, Iowa, the city was evacuated for days. A shelter was set up nearby in Sloan for those needing help.

Now Siouxlanders are left to pick up the pieces.

But, one thing that’s expected to take time is repairing roadways that all of us depend on for day to day transportation.

It’s even been affecting the livelihood of some people.

Roads closed signs are a common sight ever since flooding in March has left roads across Siouxland damaged.

“It’s like liquid marshmallow that they’re driving on out there,” said Paul Scherschligt, Yankton County Emergency Manager.

Signs like this have become all too common in places like Yankton County following March’s flooding.

Roads are so damaged in places like Yankton County, South Dakota, there’s no other way to describe the damage.

Officials say some paved roads have massive holes, while other gravel roads have bottomed out.

“It’s just like quicksand and when people have gone through them, they’ve gotten stuck, the road blows out, there’s water sitting in the tracks and it just won’t dry out the ground is full. I mean, there’s no place for the water to go,” said Scherschligt.

It’s a long process to even get out and start fixing roads.

“We’re still trying to get it dry enough to where we can get out and even look at it to take care of it or fix it,” says Scherschligt.

There are over 600 sites in Yankton County, South Dakota where March’s floods have left behind damaged roads and the impact on transportation is deeply affecting residents and farmers across the area.

“I can’t imagine some of the areas they’re unable to go where they can’t get garbage service, they can’t get, you know, their livestock hauled out, I mean because of the road limits and the fact the roads are shot,” said Scherschligt.

The lack of transportation in some areas has created daily issues for some folks in places like Yankton County.

 

The roads are so bad in Yankton County that officials asked heavy trucks to stay off the roads.

They even ask for the post office to keep their vehicles off some roads.

Just by trying to prevent further damage, leaders have come in contact with an entirely different set of problems.

“We didn’t at the time, you’re just asking people to do that then you find out that people get medicines in the mail, they get different, you know, and that really put kind of a hurt on a lot of people,” said Scherschligt.

The lack of transportation in some areas has created daily issues for some folks and it’s been a hurdle for leaders trying to solve the issue at hand.

“It’s been challenging trying to make sure that you’re trying to get everybody doing what they still need to do, take care of people but yet save our roads and save the infrastructure for the county,” said Scherschligt.

Not only does the county have to figure out how to address new problems, but they’re also concerned about what’s to come.

“The other thing we’re concerned about is what we’re not going to find yet, it’s still coming so with that in mind we could see stuff in September still popping up,” says Scherschligt.

Some officials in Siouxland say they’re not sure when the roads will be repaired but, there is some hope on the horizon.

“Slowly but, surely things are starting to turn around,” says Scherschligt.

 

Searching for a Solution

Yankton County is certainly not the only place in Siouxland faced with the difficulty of repairing destroyed roadways.

In fact, many leaders across Siouxland say they are dealing with this very issue.

Residents in Cedar County, Nebraska are seeing close to an hour of additional driving following March’s flooding, with some main roads still closed off due to damage.

In Cedar County, Nebraska officials say it may take a while to get roads fixed after March flooding left some roads washed away and others significantly damaged.

Leaders say they are seeing damage on soft dirt roads and some bridges.

It’s been causing so much trouble for residents of Cedar County it’s been adding miles to their daily commutes.

Going forward into the rest of Spring, those leaders say rain is a big concern.

“The more rain we get the longer it’s going to delay things and now they have the frost coming out of the ground so some of the roads are developing soft spots so some of them that weren’t damaged now have issues,” said Cedar County Emergency Manager Kevin Garvin.

Officials in Cedar County say roads are so bad some farmers are using ATV’s to get into their fields.

They do say county crews have been working on the roads but it will be quite some time before they are all fixed.

Niobrara, Nebraska was one of the worst hit areas in Siouxland.

Managers with the Nebraska Department of Transportation say it could be a month until a contractor is on site.

They say the goal is to have temporary bridges up by August.

And they’re even working with the military to see if a temporary bridge would be a possibility.

But they say that is a very costly option.

Large structures like roadways and bridges take time to fix.

Officials in Woodbury County say some secondary roads in the county still need repairs following March flooding.

In Iowa, Woodbury County officials say the county roads near Hornick are still holding up pretty well after the flooding.

But, some secondary roads, like in Moville, still need some work.

Officials say they estimate about $1.5 million in road damage caused by the floods.

Officials say this round of flooding was unlike most other ones they’ve seen before.

“This flood was unique, really. I’ve never had one occur in March, when all the roads are still frozen. We had almost instant runoff and instant snowmelt and it really overwhelmed a lot of our roads, ditches and streams,” says Mark Nahra, Woodbury County Engineer.

Officials say it could be mid-Summer before roads are back to normal in Wooodbury County.

Ashly Richardson

Ashly Richardson

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