Driving through the streets of Fort Pierre today, there is little sign of damage left behind from the 2011 Missouri River flood. But the mayor of Fort Pierre says it’s an event she'll never forget. This summer marks the 5th anniversary of the flood.
Gloria Hanson is a resident in Fort Pierre. Just before the Missouri River flooding began, she had just finished a remodeling project in her home, only to be told it would soon be filled with three to four feet of standing water.
“After watching our expense new remodeling get torn out and everything on our main floor removed and our possessions hauled away to eight or ten different locations...the house was surrounded by about three feet of sandbags and sump pumps...there was water over the curb in front and up to the patio in the back and you drive away and wonder what you’re going to come back to,” says Hanson.
400 days later, Hanson move back into her house. Now as mayor of Fort Pierre, Hanson says the town has made a good recovery from the flood that impacted about 20 percent of its residents.
“Most people don’t think it will happen again. But it certain has made us more aware of snow pack in Montana and also aware of the Corps of Engineers practices and policies,” says Hanson.
Hanson said the biggest impact on the town was financial. Fort Pierre went into substantial debt to repair the damages before getting reimbursement from FEMA. Hanson says the flood also forced Fort Pierre to improve infrastructures, although she's says there is not a way to completely prepare for wide scale flooding.
Kristi Turman is the state Emergency Manager. She’s says the 2011 flood was the largest disaster many state emergency officials had encountered.
“We learned a lot about levy construction and levy placement," says Turman. "We learned about the most efficient way to set up sandbagging stations. We learned what experts we needed at the table.”
Turman says the flood helped officials to fine tune response efforts. She says homeowners should talk with county officials about the flood risk of their home and property in case of a high water event.