Big Sioux may drop below flood stage!

Posted July 12, 2018 at 5:00 am

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By Julie Ann Madden

It seems like forever that area residents have been dealing with the flooding rage of the Big Sioux River along the western border of Iowa and eastern border of South Dakota.

By Thursday, July 12, only the stink and debris cleanup may be left as the National Weather Service’s Advance Hydrologic Prediction Service stated the Big Sioux River at Akron is predicted to drop below its 16 feet flood stage level that morning.

As of press time Monday, the river’s level had dropped to 17.5 feet after cresting at 23.51 feet on Saturday, June 23.

“I was told that 2014 was once-in-a-500-year-flood,” said a stunned Preston Nilson of Hawarden when The Akron Hometowner reached him Friday, June 22 as the Big Sioux River began rising. “And here we are just four years later and it could possibly happen again.”

Nilson lives just west of Hawarden — three-eighths of a mile north of where Big Sioux River flooding stood the railroad tracks vertically in the 2014 Flood.

Living in his family’s farm rental house, he hadn’t expected to be affected by the 2014 Flood. However, he’d been awakened in the night with flood waters in his basement.

Nilson told The Akron Hometowner he’d gone to work that morning by driving his 1486 International Harvester tractor, which had “weights and excellent lug tires,” through about 3 feet of flood water.

His pickup had been parked in the garage, a total loss.

It was 10 days before Nilson was able to return home.

The only thing that saved his house’s main floor from flood water damage was the railroad tracks’ berm-like base being breached by the flood waters, said Nilson, noting he’d lost several things in the basement plus utilities’ equipment.

The house’s basement windows had also popped, letting the flood water’s pressure equalize inside and out, saving the house.

“It was a rough one,” said Nilson. “The water came up over a foot an hour in that flood.”

The area had 9 or more inches of rain in a short period of time and a dam broke at Luverne, Minn., adding to the 2014 Flood.

“It’s definitely something that has to be watched in times we get tremendously heavy rains.”

Thankfully, as the first Flood of 2018 recedes, the Nilson family has had a somewhat easier time — possibly because of the wisdom they gained from the 2014 Flood.

Nilson, who faced this flood with a wife and infant son, evacuated their home on June 22, staying with his parents. They were able to make pre-flood preparations, which included moving items to the main floor and installing two pumps.

At Hawarden’s north main gauge point, the Big Sioux River was reported cresting at 34 feet — a new record. At the south point where Nilson lives, no data was available.

On June 26, Nilson told The Akron Hometowner, “I think we’re going to be all right.”

At that point, he had two sump pumps going in the septic tank but he could see the basement floor through the flood waters.

“The cleanup will suck,” Nilson said, “but there won’t be much of a financial hit.”

“It stinks,” he said about the rancid stench of rotting earthworms in the yard, “but we’re very fortunate.”

He’d just heard of a family losing everything but the clothes on their backs due to a tornado elsewhere.

“I shouldn’t complain,” said Nilson. “Life could be much worse.”

“It is what it is,” he added. “I can’t wait to get back to a normal life. We’ll just roll with the punches and get through it one step at a time.”

On June 30, the Nilsons moved back into their home.

On July 1, S.D. Highway 48 was reopened for travel.

On Monday morning, the Nilsons discovered their washing machine had broken, dumping 6 inches of water in their nearly-dried-out basement floor.

Sometimes you have flooding and other times you have unintended flooding, their farmhand told Nilson as they started the cleanup again.

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