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Personalities: The Great Flood of 1993

Map of the Great Flood of 1993

The Great Flood of 1993 hit the American Midwest from May to September, running along the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers and extending into nine states. Naturally, South Dakota was in its path. Chuck Anderson traveled to the southeast corner of the state, a particularly affected region.

He stopped in Montrose, a town of roughly 420 people seated northwest of Sioux Falls, that fell partially underwater. There, he met John Griffith and his father, Bill, who were in the process of repairing a damaged basement where a wall caved in.

Bill added that the situation was further complicated by waist-deep mud, but he knew his family's situation was not the worst.

Bill says his house didn't flood above the basement, unlike others.

John heard stories of fish finding their way into people's homes.

John says a northern pike and two bullheads were found in people's homes.

In Montrose, Chuck saw wet furniture sitting out in front yards and stacked on trucks, as though the community were having a yard sale of damaged goods. He stumbled upon another recovering family.

Chuck meets Pam Hogan and Hildegard Hirsch, a daughter/mother duo in Montrose. They talk about the damage, but also some disturbing creepy crawlies in the floodwater.

Pam made a poignant observation about her elderly parents' situation, which was likely a common one.

Pam says her parents want to stay in their damaged house even though they can't afford a loan to fix it.

The raging falls of 1993, Sioux Falls
Credit South Dakota Water Science Center
The raging falls of 1993, Sioux Falls

Chuck thanked the family for their time and headed 35 minutes southeast to Sioux Falls, where the falls were making waves. He met people from Minnesota and eastern South Dakota and heard their stories.

Jan Baldwin from Worthington, MN

Orville Flannery from Sioux Falls

Rita Flannery, Orville's wife

Matt Miller from Sioux Falls/Renner

John Miller, Matt's father

Nancy Yott from Centerville

Ron Yott, Nancy's husband

Sheila Slichter from Miller

Rob Slichter, Sheila's husband

South Dakota farmland underwater

South Dakota farmland underwater
Credit South Dakota Water Science Center
South Dakota farmland underwater

Chuck moved upriver to Renner and met Montie Horn from Minnehaha County Emergency Management. Montie said the county was looking at over $3 million in damages to public and private property and the Big Sioux River was still breaking 8 feet high. A week after the flooding in Renner, they were still submerged, and at an ironic time.

Montie talks about the irony of the flooding and how the community is still at risk of getting more water.

He added there were multiple rescue missions made across the county.

Montie mentions the rescue of an old man from the floods, as well as young rafters who thought the waters were safe to play with.

After hearing the unique ways the Great Flood affected many South Dakotans' lives, Chuck came away with a conclusion about his fellow people.

Chuck says South Dakotans are built to survive.

Man fishing on the flooded Vermillion River near Wakonda

Man fishing on the flooded Vermillion River near Wakonda
Credit South Dakota Water Science Center
Man fishing on the flooded Vermillion River near Wakonda

The summer of '93 was not the last time South Dakota has seen serious flooding

It also was not the first time.

NOVA, PBS's science documentary series, includes a piece on the Great Flood in Summer '93. Watch it here.

Hear Chuck's full episode on the floods:

Chuck Anderson takes a look into the lives of South Dakotans after the Great Flood of '93.

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