FEMA assessing damage to rural roads in Minnehaha County

BALTIC, S.D. (KSFY) - Representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and South Dakota Emergency Managers are out for another day of assessing flood damage to cities, counties and tribal lands.

Tuesday, their focus is on rural roads throughout the county that have suffered severe damage. Those FEMA representatives are conducting assessments as the first step to receive federal disaster relief.

FEMA crews have been all over Minnehaha County checking out the damage that these flood waters have caused. The roads are crumbling and washed out, no one can get through.

"I’m always surprised by the power of water and what it can do," FEMA Public Assistance Group Supervisor, Kevin Helland said.

A special team with FEMA is traveling around Minnehaha County assessing rural roads that have been destroyed by water some even being washed out.

"I’ve seen a lot of gravel roads but it's never exactly the same," Helland said.

Helland has been with FEMA for seven years now. Though these storms create a lot of severe damage it's never the same picture in the states he's visited.

Jason Gearman with Minnehaha County Emergency Management said these roads are usually used by farmers to get to their fields, by families to get to their homes or school buses to pick up students for school.

"Obviously, this is kind of a unique spot but there a several spots in the county that are like this. The information that I’m getting from the farmers that have lived here most of their lives say this is the worst they've ever seen it," Gearman said.

"We're trying to capture as much data and damage as we can and then all of our reports will go to the state so the governor can make a request for the President," Helland said.

The assessment will also capture impacts that happen throughout the economy. Since farmers aren't planting they're not making any money right now.

"He was getting prepared to plant some spots however with the rain last night that's going to put him back again and the continual forecast is not looking good," Gearman said.

This is another road near Renner off of Interstate 90 that's washed out. There are even fish that were swept away by the flood waters swimming over the roads.

"We have to get the funding to repair it this is such severe damage it causes a pretty large strain on the townships financially," Gearman said.

Governor Kristi Noem will receive the assessments after FEMA completes their surveying. Then, the assessment will be submitted for a disaster declaration so funding can be provided to those townships affected.

FEMA will continue to assess Minnehaha County and include as many counties in as possible on this initial assessment.