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Gov brings flood prep message to Brookings

Modified: Tuesday, Mar 22nd, 2011

Gov. Dennis Daugaard talks about soil moisture in South Dakota, at a Wednesday flood preparedness meeting at the Swiftel Center in Brookings. Daugaard was joined by local, state and national officials in a series of meetings held earlier this week aimed at getting citizens in communities along the Big Sioux River ready for imminent flooding.

• Daugaard meets with officials, residents ; says individuals need to safeguard their property

Flood preparations should not start next week, later this week or even tomorrow.

South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard told Brookings area officials and residents that the work should begin now.

Daugaard made a Wednesday stop at the Swiftel Center, part of a tour of eastern South Dakota for a series of three flood preparedness meetings. Experts from the National Weather Service, Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Corps of Engineers and more joined him.

It’s the government’s job to take care of public infrastructure, the governor said this week, and individuals have to take care of their own property.

Daugaard pointed out that flooding along the Big Sioux River near Brookings is a certainty – there’s a 98 percent chance of major flooding and an 80 percent chance of record flooding.

“Major flooding being when the water is out of (the river’s) banks, there are likely roads covered and closed, and buildings are being inundated.

“Flooding is certainly going to happen in South Dakota. Just how severe it will be is determined by the speed of the melt and the degree to which we get precipitation.”

Flood warning here

On Wednesday, the National Weather Service issued a flood warning for the Big Sioux River near Brookings.

During his stop in the city, the governor said he wanted to emphasize the importance of individual action to protect individual property.

Some residents assume that if a flood damages their personal property, and it’s not covered by homeowner’s insurance and they don’t have flood insurance, the government will step in and take care of the financial loss. That doesn’t happen in most cases, Daugaard explained.

Disaster declarations provide support to townships, counties and the state to restore road, bridges and other public infrastructure.

“Most if not all of the local governments and emergency managers are well prepared to defend against public infrastructure damage, to protect roads and waters and sewer systems. … The degree to which individuals have acted to protect themselves is much more variable, and that’s something that we all need as leaders to urge upon our citizens.

“The degree to which government has come in and helped people has grown over the years, and some of our citizens have become expectant that the government will somehow take care of them.”

Flood insurance and individual actions to protect property are the best things to do in case of flooding, the governor said.

“What we want to do through this tour is urge individual citizens to act now, to protect their property as best they can.”

Kristi Turman, South Dakota Emergency Management director, told area residents to get prepared ahead of the rising water.

The best kind of preparation

Individual preparedness is the best kind of preparedness, she said. “As individuals and citizens, we know our property best. We know our situation the best. If we can take action and protect our property and our interests, that puts us in control. We’re in control of the response for our property. We’re in control of our recovery, and we’re not at the mercy of resources, whether they be governmental, private non-profit, volunteer. We’re not at the mercy of those resources that are going to be stretched thin, helping individuals who may not have any other resources to help themselves.”

Turman reiterated some of the preparations that emergency officials have been urging for weeks. They include:

• Start sandbagging now if you live near a river or a lake

• Prepare an emergency supply kit

• Make sure sump pumps are working, and have a backup ready

• Protect important documents

• Move possessions out of the lower level of your home

Turman said flood-fighting assets – sandbags, boats, heavy equipment, National Guard equipment and more – have already been staged throughout eastern South Dakota.

Daugaard said even though there’s a 30-day waiting period before flood insurance takes effect, it’s still a sensible investment, because flooding can happen here most of the year.

More flooding preparedness information can also be found at www.bReadySD.com and www.floodsmart.gov.

Contact Jill Fier at jfier@brookingsregister.com.

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