A thunderstorm that dumped up to 9 inches of rain near Java, has washed away most of a favorite area state park.
On Thursday, May 17, and Friday, May 18, storms traveled across northcentral South Dakota accompanied by high winds, hail and very heavy rain. The storm lasted for hours in some spots, leaving standing water in fields, ditches, and the yards of rural homes. Many roads in Walworth County were covered by water and culverts were washed out by the heavy rain and run-off.
The Walworth County Commissioners have called for an emergency meeting to be held today (Wednesday) to declare the county a disaster area.
Walworth County Emergency Manager Jake Fees said the most extensive damage occurred at Hiddenwood State Park, where the 27-foot concrete dam that created the park’s lake was destroyed.
“There is catastrophic damage in the Hiddenwood area,” he said. “The water drained from the lake and flowed onto the land surrounding the park.”
Fees said four local landowners are dealing with flooded pasture and fields in the area. The water from Hiddenwood damaged the bridge on the road to park, which along with another county road bridge, will need to be inspected before they can be reopened.
“It was strange how this rain came down,” said Fees. “There was two to three inches reported south of Selby, but seven inches around Sitka road.”
Roads were covered near the Stallman Apiary along U.S. Highway 12, and also near the Web Water Plant on Highway 1804, near 300th Avenue.
An employee of New Evarts was headed home after work, when the vehicle she was driving slid off of the roadway and into a water-filled ditch. The driver managed to get out of the vehicle before it was submerged and sought help at the Web plant.
Fees said areas of the county west of Sitka received less rain.
There were some reports of missing calves, according to Fees, and some horses were missing, but he felt they would be found. The water displaced a shed on a farm between Selby and Java.
In Mobridge, the National Weather Service reported 2.51 inches of rain was recorded, while West River, in Timber Lake, 1.65 inches of rain fell. As the storm moved to the east, it lost its punch, dropping only 1.5 inches in Bowdle and less east of that municipality.
In northern McPherson County it was another story. According to sheriff Dave Ackerman, 5.75 inches was record in Eureka, but it was the hail that did the damage in town.
“We had some golf ball size and reports of bigger hail,” he said. “It came down for about half-an-hour and damaged homes, roofs and vehicles.”
Ackerman said there was some local flooding in town with some water in basements.
Northeast of Eureka, in the Long Lake area, Ackerman said 13 inches and more of rain was recorded. There was localized flooding reported and property damage due to the heavy rain. There are roads that are still underwater in the county, but he said much of that water has receded.
“We are still in the process of assessing the damage,” he said. “But it was nothing like happened at Hiddenwood.”
Fees said he checked the park around midnight and realized there could be a disaster in the making, when he saw the water rushing over the top of the dam. He alerted Walworth County Sheriff Josh Boll of the situation. At daylight, he realized his fear had come to fruition as the dam, spillway, road and bridge had been overwhelmed by the water and washed away.
According to one observer, much of the state park looks like a war zone, with trees piled up along the creek and concrete picnic tables pushed over. The lake has drained, with nothing but the muddy bottom left. The footbridge that crossed the creek area, near the campground is nearly washed away. Much of the vegetation, including trees that once lined the banks of the creek is gone.
Fees said he was relieved to discover that no campers were in the park during the storm, but there reservations for Friday for the free state park weekend. He said the park is closed until further notice and no one should not cross the yellow caution tape.
“The park is a total loss,” said Fees. “I don’t know how they are going to access the damage there.”
Fees said the water from Lake Hiddenwood is draining to the north into Sand Lake. That lake’s level was “to the max” on Monday, according to Fees. The water will continue to drain north into Campbell County along U.S. Highway 83 to Spring Creek near Herreid and could end up draining into Lake Pocasse near Pollock, he said.
Fees said he saw a lot of fish in the ditches outside of the park.
The county roads will be opened as they soon as they are deemed safe for travel by the county highway department.
– Katie Zerr –