When Rep. Kristi Noem toured the Yankton area on Saturday, she said she saw something extraordinary — a community spirit that will help the Yankton area survive the waters roaring down the Missouri River.

“It is amazing to see what is going on here. Obviously, it is nothing like I have ever seen before,” she said. “This community is amazing. They are stepping up with a great community spirit. The levies that they have built look like they are built correctly. I am optimistic that we are going to get through this with minimal damage, and that everyone is going to lift each other up in the process.”

In a tour of the area that took her from Gavins Point Dam, where she witnessed the power of the releases, to Larson’s Landing and several individual homes along the river, Noem said she saw optimism and hard work at play.

“We talked to some of those who were sandbagging down (along the river) and stopped at different homes to see people who are working so hard to save their homes,” she said. “They recognize that these are tough times. It is really hard to see it potentially affect your home. But, (everyone affected) also sees the cooperation between the state and the federal government and the local emergency management team. There is no criticism, only hope.”

Noem said the federal government has funding in place to help those affected by a natural disasters.

“We have specifically put in another $1 billion of disaster aid money in this funding bill,” she said. “There is the potential for supplemental, if need be. We wanted to make sure that we did increase it in this bill. We are hoping that there will be enough there; if not, there is the opportunity to do more. If you think of it, across the country there has been all kinds of natural disasters, so federal resources are spread thin. But we are going to make sure that everyone is taken care of.” While Noem said she feels there are a lot of questions to be answered regarding how and why this situation happened, she said the focus first has to be to helping everyone affected. She said the federal government will get to the bottom of how it all occurred once the immediate needs have been met.

When asked about the amount of water to be released from the Missouri River dams, she said people have to trust the Corps.

“They are the experts,” she said. “The most I have heard in any meeting here in South Dakota or in D.C. is that 150,000 (cubic feet per second) is the max. I don’t believe they would have us do all this work if they knew it was only going to get covered up and rolled over by water. But we have to be prepared and get to the levels we need to based on the information they gave us.”

In other flood-related news from the weekend:

• The Red Cross evacuation shelter is prepared and ready to receive those affected in the Yankton area. Those needing assistance, contact should Jack Steiner at 605-661-0161 for more details.

• The Yankton County Office of Emergency Management (YCOEM) is advising anyone working or recreating near Missouri River waters to use extreme caution. The increased releases from Gavins Point Dam, and subsequent planned releases, have made the river very turbulent and have made some shoreline areas very unstable.

Homeowners and volunteers working near water should wear floatation devices and take other precautions to protect personal safety, the YCOEM advised in a press release.

Additionally, local emergency officials are advising no boat traffic on the river below the dam. YCOEM Director Paul Scherschligt said the increased speed of the river and the amount of debris being swept down river has made it a very dangerous waterway.

The State of South Dakota has restricted access to river boat ramps and closed the river to all boat traffic directly below the dam.

• The American Humane Society, with the assistance of the Heartland Humane Society, has set up an animal shelter at the Yankton County 4-H grounds.

“Pet shelter care is being provided for those families evacuated due to flooding in the Yankton area,” Yankton Police Animal Control Officer Lisa Brasel said in a press release. “Petsmart has graciously provided supplies and pet food.”

Owners can drop off and visit their pets between 8 a.m.-6 p.m. 

The society has planned for up to 200 animals at this time but will reassess the needs for housing larger numbers if needed. There will be veterinarian care available on site.

Large animal housing will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

For more information, call 605-661-9494.

• It was announced that Lewis and Clark Lake will remain at normal water levels and the lake will be one of the few bodies of water without boating restrictions this year. Boat ramps, camping pad, cabins and swimming beaches remain accessible for use.

For more information, please click here

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