SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO AM) - Interstate 29 in Union County opened Friday afternoon, much earlier than expected, because the Big Sioux River crested sooner and lower than expected.
The river crest, which came about 1 a.m. on Friday, was about 3.5 feet short of the forecast record level. Because no flood water reached Interstate 29, state crews were able to re-open the highway Friday afternoon. It had been closed on Thursday to facilitate levee building as protection against the anticipated record water level.
“We are extremely thankful that the flows were lower than forecast and residents of this area were spared major flooding,’’ Lt. Gov. Michels said. “In these situations, you do all you can to prepare for the worst. Then you hope for the best. Many, many good people worked diligently to prepare for the worst. Fortunately, that didn’t happen.’’
Sioux Falls Meteorologist Todd Heitkamp says a levee break at Akron, Iowa, took some pressure off the river.
Heitkamp says the record crest at North Sioux is 108 feet and the crest last night was 105 feet. He says the river will begin to recede over the weekend.
Emergency management officials had turned I-29 into a giant dike at the interchange at North Sioux City, making it part of the levee system to hold back the Big Sioux.
Once the danger passed, they unplugged the interchange and traffic was soon flowing again. Truckers must have been happy. Their detour, heading southbound. took them 270 miles out of their way.
South Dakota Highway Patrol Captain Allen Welch says it was amazing to watch the giant levee across the highway being built and then quickly taken down. Welch says he knows shutting down the highway was an inconvenience, but it was a 'neccessary inconvenience'. Captain Welch says most motorists were compliant and things went well.
“Sometimes, when you work hard to protect yourself and your loved ones, you also catch a break,’’ Michels said. “We caught two or three, and I can’t tell you how good that makes me feel.’’