- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 18, 2014

ELK POINT, S.D. (AP) - Crews will turn an Interstate 29 exchange bridge into a makeshift levee in an effort to protect much of the town of North Sioux City from Big Sioux River flooding spurred by recent heavy rainfall, South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard said Wednesday.

But water from the crest expected sometime between Thursday and Saturday will likely spill into the neighborhood of McCook Lake, an area of North Sioux City of about 300 to 400 homes, the governor said. It’s not yet known how high the levels will rise, but some homes are expected to be damaged.

“We’re going to do the best we can to moderate that damage,” Daugaard said during a news conference in Elk Point.

Severe storms moved across parts of eastern South Dakota on Monday, closing roads, flooding streets, highways and fields and increasing flows in the Big Sioux River. The heaviest rain fell far north of Sioux City, but that water is now making it down to Union County via the river.

The Big Sioux is expected to crest at 109 feet - 10 feet above the height where flooding begins - in Sioux City, Iowa, on Friday evening. That’s more than the 108.3 feet record set in 1969.

Daugaard on Tuesday declared a state of emergency and opened an operations center to coordinate the state’s response to the areas affected by the aftermath of the torrential rains. He also activated the South Dakota National Guard, which has 127 soldiers deployed to help construct levees and fill sandbags and has another 350 people on stand-by.

About 100 minimum-security inmates under the custody of the South Dakota Department of Corrections are also participating in cleanup and flood control efforts.

Sometime on Thursday, crews will close Exit 4 and begin constructing a levee by sandbagging the highway’s four lanes and plugging the underpass. Northbound and southbound traffic will be diverted through detours, Daugaard said.

North Sioux City Mayor Don Fuxa said officials will hold a community meeting Wednesday evening to discuss the situation and show flood maps with residents of the McCook Lake area.

Daugaard said a lot of variables, including the possibility of more rain, could affect the crest.

“It’s very difficult to judge exactly what will happen and when it will happen because the weather is so unpredictable,” he said.


Follow Dirk Lammers on Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/ddlammers

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