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A Look Back at the May 5th, 2007 Floods

Rainfall amounts May 5-6, 2007. A more details map is available below.
NWS Aberdeen
Rainfall amounts May 5-6, 2007. A more details map is available below.

Northeast South Dakota found itself in the grip of catastrophic flooding on the night of May 5th through the 6th, 2007, as a relentless line of thunderstorms swept across the region. The day began as an area of low pressure with abundant moisture from the Gulf of Mexico with powerful low-level winds lifted across South Dakota, unleashing what meteorologists termed as "training thunderstorms."

These training thunderstorms, characterized by repetitive storms crossing the same area, unleashed torrential rains ranging from 3 to over 10 inches across the area.

Rainfall amounts May 5-6, 2007
NWS Aberdeen
Rainfall amounts May 5-6, 2007

May 5th rainfall totals from the National Weather Service in Aberdeen included:

5.82 inches in Conde
6 inches in Langford
6.33 inches in Gann Valley
6.72 inches in Clark
7.41 inches in Ashton
7.49 inches in Stratford
7.55 inches near Mellette
7.97 inches in Aberdeen
8.02 inches in Redfield
8.73 inches in Columbia
8.74 inches in Groton

Groton's 8.74 inches of rainfall set a new 24-hour state rainfall record.

Totaling up the rainfall over the two-day event, Aberdeen received a total of 9.00 inches; Columbia received a total of 10.19 inches; Groton received an astonishing two-day total rainfall of 10.74 inches.

Dozens of cities bore the brunt of the flash floods, with hundreds of homes,and businesses succumbing to the deluge. The hardest hit was Aberdeen, where 75% of homes experienced flooding in basements. Structural damage was widespread, with collapsed basement walls and overwhelmed drainage systems leading to sewage backups across the Hub City.

The waters caused thousands of acres of crops to be flooded, and large quantities of fertilizer washed away. Flood warnings were issued for the James River, where downstream, the river would rise quickly to near historic levels

In response to the disaster, President George W. Bush declared several counties, including Brown, Buffalo, Clark, Day, Marshall, and Spink, as disaster areas, unlocking federal aid for relief efforts. South Dakota Governor Mike Rounds also declared a state of emergency for the flooded counties, mobilizing resources to address the crisis.

The night of May 5th, 2007, was not limited to flash floods as the same weather system spawned twenty tornadoes in the southeastern part of South Dakota, including an EF3 that destroyed a hunting lodge near Plankinton.

Map of the tornados that touched down in South Dakota May 5, 2007.
Map of the tornados that touched down in South Dakota May 5, 2007.

The floods of May 5-6th, 2007 are an event for which most locals have a story. Just ask them.

Brent is the Digital Content Curator at South Dakota Public Broadcasting. He came to SDPB after spending over 20 years broadcasting on radio stations in Aberdeen, Pierre, Milbank, Sisseton, and Watertown as Brent Nathaniel. An Aberdeen area native, Brent is based in Watertown with his wife Bri and their cat Allie.