Personalities: The Great Flood of 1993

Apr 7, 2017

The expanse of the Great Flood of 1993
Credit water.usgs.gov

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.

John heard stories of fish finding their way into 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.

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

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

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.

South Dakota farmland underwater
Credit South Dakota Water Science Center

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.

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

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

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

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: