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Noem: state to reach damage threshold for federal flood assistance

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(The Center Square) – South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem said she is confident the state will have $1.6 million in damages to qualify for federal aid after flood waters destroyed homes near the Big Sioux River.

The river crested earlier than expected, averting more damage, Noem said at a news conference Monday morning.

State Geologist Tim Cowman said he thinks the water levels are at the maximum.

“The one thing about this flood because there’s been so much volume coming down is that those peaks are staying up there for quite a while, for hours at a time instead of just coming and going rapidly and that is why we are seeing the maximum inundation that we have here stick around for a while,” Cowman said.

Emergency plans were in place, but that doesn’t mean that every loss can be avoided, Noem said. The governor said Sunday at least one person has died.

“There are significant losses to many families,” Noem said. “We are here to offer what support and shelter and help that we can possibly can to those individuals that are suffering with those financial and home losses today.”

The floods shut down portions of I-29 northbound and southbound between exits 2 and 26, according to the South Dakota Department of Transportation.

Boats were also banned on five lakes as part of an emergency order issued by Noem on Saturday.

Noem said she plans to ask for federal assistance, which would have the federal government footing 75% of approved disaster-related costs, 15% paid by the state and 10% covered by local governments.

“When she makes her request for a declaration by the president, we will go to the mattress to make sure that the administration understands that when she asks for something it is because she needs it, because these communities need it,” said U.S. Rep. Dusty Johnson, R-S.D., who attended the news conference. “It’s because these families need it.”

Officials are still collecting data on damages, Johnson said.

“I can tell you having seen some of the damage, having a sense of how high these waters are, I would be surprised if there would not be robust federal assistance when we are talking about recovery,” Johnson said.

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