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March 22, 2019

Reporters: Do you want to interview USGS scientists in the Sioux Falls area on Monday, March 25, or Tuesday, March 26, as they measure flooding? Please contact Jennifer LaVista, Marisa Lubeck or Chris Laveau.

U.S. Geological Survey field crews are measuring record flooding in parts of southeastern South Dakota following rainfall and warmer temperatures. 

Rain that fell on snow from March 14-15 led to record flooding in the James, Vermillion and Big Sioux River basins. The following warmer weather and resultant melting snow upstream of the rainfall areas have resulted in ongoing high flows in much of the state.

USGS crews are measuring high flood flows and verifying streamgage operations on the James and Big Sioux Rivers in eastern South Dakota and the White and Cheyenne Rivers in central and western South Dakota. Records indicate that peak flows measured since March 13 and many of the forecast peaks will be in the top five flows measured for many sites. Within the next week, very high flows are expected in the Sioux Falls area in the Big Sioux basin, potentially reaching the second highest river stage at the Dell Rapid gage and the North Cliff Avenue gage. 

USGS crews will keep tracking the floodwaters as flooding continues with heavy snowpack and ice breakup across both North and South Dakota. This information is critical for resource managers and emergency responders to help protect life and property. The USGS coordinates efforts with the National Weather Service, US Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation and many local and state partners.

As the snow continues to melt and temperatures rise, crews will move from south to north within the Dakotas. Scientists are estimating that this year’s runoff from the Red River of the North may be among one of the top 10 ever recorded.

There are about 280 USGS operated streamgages in North and South Dakota that measure water levels, streamflow and rainfall. When flooding occurs, USGS crews make numerous discharge measurements to verify the data USGS provides to federal, tribal, state and local agencies, as well as to the public.

For more than 125 years, the USGS has monitored flow in selected streams and rivers across the United States. The information is routinely used for water supply and management, monitoring floods and droughts, bridge and road design, determination of flood risk and for many recreational activities.

Access current flood and high flow conditions across the country by visiting the USGS WaterWatch website. Receive instant, customized updates about water conditions in your area via text message or email by signing up for USGS WaterAlert. See where floodwaters go by following a stream trace at Streamer. View water data on your mobile device. Learn how a USGS streamgage works.

Flooding on the Big Sioux River, March 2019
USGS crews take water measurements on the Big Sioux River during record flooding in March, 2019.

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