USGS

Floods in South Dakota, Spring 1995

Fact Sheet 164-95

 

The full report is available in pdf (210 KB). 

 

Severe flooding occurred across South Dakota during the spring of 1995. Similar to the floods of 1993, high flows began during snowmelt and continued as spring rains moved into the area. Localized flooding resulted from heavy precipitation in the form of snow and rain that occurred during late March and April over much of the central and eastern parts of the State. Unusually heavy spring rains followed in late April and May, especially in the Black Hills area. Unlike the 1993 floods, which were confined mostly to the James, Vermillion, and Big Sioux River Basins, the severe 1995 flooding was Statewide.

The Storms

A narrow band of heavy snow resulted from storms along the northern border in late February and by early March, snow depths were about 20 inches in the northeastern part of the State. Following an early March storm, record low temperatures were equaled or exceeded at five cities in eastern South Dakota, including -32×F at Aberdeen on March 8. A very rapid warmup that began on March 10 caused ice breakup on many streams. Heavy precipitation occurred over central and eastern South Dakota April 8-12 and April 18 producing as much as 6 to 7 inches of moisture in the form of snow and rain. As much as 50 to 60 inches of snow fell in the central part of the State during the two storms, causing extended electrical outages and significant losses of newborn livestock. During April 28-30, another storm tracked across the southern part of the State; southwestern South Dakota received 1 to 2 inches of rain, the Black Hills of western South Dakota received 3 to 8 inches of snow, and the south-central and southeastern parts of the State received up to an inch of rain.

 

There were unusually intense rains in the western and northern Black Hills May 6-10. The storm produced widespread rainfall of 3 to 6 inches in much of the Black Hills, with reports of 6 to 10 inches in the northern Black Hills and foothills. During May 7-10, 8.78 inches of precipitation was recorded at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) precipitation gage, Two Bit Gulch near Deadwood. The Two Bit Gulch gage recorded 13.43 inches in May. The rest of the State received 1 to 3 inches of rain May 7-10. Slow moving, intense thunderstorms over Memorial Day weekend in southeast South Dakota produced severe weather (tornadoes and hail) and more than 4 inches of rain in some areas. All-time record precipitation during March 1 through May 31 occurred at some locations (table 1) that have 100 or more years of record. Precipitation amounts, compiled by the South Dakota State Climatologist for March 1 through May 31 for selected National Weather Service stations across the State, are shown in figure 1.

 

Table 1. Record precipitation during March 1 through May 31 for selected gages with 100 or more years of record

  March-May precipitation, in inches
 
Location 19951 Previous record(year)

Faulkton 12.99 12.89 (1991)
Highmore 14.63 13.93 (1991)
Huron 14.96 12.80 (1942)
Mitchell 15.55 15.28 (1942)
Sioux Falls 14.64 13.78 (1920)
Yankton 16.94 15.89 (1883)

1Preliminary National Weather Service data (A.R. Bender, State Climatologist, written commun., June 1995)

 

Figure 1
Figure 1. Preliminary National Weather Service precipitation data for March 1 through May 31, 1995 (A.R. Bender, State Climatologist, written commun., June 1995).

 

The Floods

Flooding began in the Grand River and the upper James River basins when the snowpack began to melt in early to mid-March. Localized flooding during March and April also occurred at several locations because of severe backwater from ice jams. On March 14, ice jams caused flooding that resulted in evacuation of 19 families from Wakpala and about 200 people from Bullhead, communities located on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in north-central South Dakota. Above-normal snow and rainfall during late March and April added to the flooding, especially in eastern South Dakota. Additional precipitation during late April and May caused record stage and flow on many streams Statewide (table 2).

 

Table 2. Comparison of peak stage and streamflow data for March 1 through May 31, 1995, to previous maximums at selected gaging stations for period of record
[mi2, square miles; ft, feet; ft3/s, cubic feet per second; --, no data, not computed, or not determined; <, less than; >, greater than]

        Flood of March-May 1995 Previous maximum
       

Station
number
Station name Period
of
record
(water
years)
Contri-buting
drainage
area
(mi2)
Peak
stage
(ft)
Peak
flow
(ft3/s)
Date Recur-
rence
interval
range1
(years)
Peak
stage
(ft)
Peak
flow
(ft3/s)
Date

06354860 Spring Creek 1963-86, 220 12.25 1,680 3/15 10-25 12.56 1,570 7/27/93
    near Herreid 1989-95                
06354882 Oak Creek near 1985-95 356 18.58 5,000 3/14 -- 17.73 3,780 3/4/86
    Wakpala             18.35 2-- 3/23/87
06402430 Beaver Creek 1991-95 45.8 9.10 60 5/7 -- 8.46 28 6/8/93
    near Pringle                  
06402995 French Creek 1991-95 68.7 7.40 375 5/8 10-25 7.31 -- 6/8/91
    above Stockade             -- 320 8/6/91
    Lake,near Custer                  
06403300 French Creek 1982-95 105 3.80 3-- 5/8 -- 2.73 329 3/7/87
    above Fairburn                  
06404800 Grace Coolidge 1990-95 7.48 7.62 378 5/8 -- 7.23 210 6/3/91
    Creek near                  
    Hayward                  
06404998 Grace Coolidge 1972, 25.2 10.86 884 5/8 10-25 12.76 2-- 2/9/79
    Creek near Game 1977-95           10.84 1,030 9/7/89
    Lodge, near                  
    Custer                  
06406000 Battle Creek at 1950-95 178 12.70 2,360 5/8 10-25 17.72 21,400 6/10/72
    Hermosa                  
06406500 Battle Creek 1951-53, 285 9.29 1,360 5/9 -- -- 2,060 5/23/52
    below Hermosa 1989-95           8.57 -- 6/8/93
06406920 Spring Creek 1991-95 127 11.84 651 5/8 -- 10.77 455 6/4/91
    above Sheridan                  
    Lake, near                  
    Keystone                  
06407500 Spring Creek near 1946-47, 163 7.15 1,100 5/9 10-25 -- 865 6/23/47
     Keystone 1987-95           6.94 -- 6/8/93
06410500 Rapid Creek 1954-95 292 7.88 839 5/8 10-25 10.44 2,060 5/15/65
    above Pactola                  
    Reservoir,at                  
    Silver City                  
06423010 Boxelder Creek 1978-95 128 33.09 1,050 5/10 <10 -- 253 5/18/78
    near Rapid City             31.65 -- 6/17/93
06424000 Elk Creek near 1946, 21.5 -- 354 5/8 -- 7.87 154 6/8/93
    Roubaix 1992-95                
06425100 Elk Creek near 1981-95 190 12.05 2,860 5/9 10-25 10.79 1,560 5/20/82
    Rapid City             11.80 2-- 2/26/86
06428500 Belle Fourche River 1947-95 3,280 16.33 3-- 5/10 -- 15.59 4,400 6/18/62
    at Wyoming-South             14.03 4,550 6/30/93
    Dakota State line                  
06430500 Redwater Creek at 1929-31, 471 10.62 1,560 5/9 10-25 12.19 2,440 8/22/73
    Wyoming-South 1936-37,                
    Dakota State line 1955-95                
06430770 Spearfish Creek 1989-95 63.5 8.20 140 5/8 -- 7.79 2-- 1/29/91
    near Lead             7.64 51 6/8/93
06430800 Annie Creek 1989-95 3.55 5.94 3-- 5/8 -- 5.18 2-- 3/17/93
    near Lead             4.96 19 6/8/93
06430850 Little Spearfish 1989-95 25.8 5.34 65 5/10 -- 4.95 22 4/25/94
    Creek near Lead                  
06430898 Squaw Creek near 1989-95 6.95 7.89 860 5/8 -- 5.37 96 6/8/93
    Spearfish                  
06430900 Spearfish Creek 1989-95 139 7.42 2,400 5/8 -- 5.14 299 6/8/93
    above Spearfish                  
06431500 Spearfish Creek at 1904, 168 10.70 2,600 5/8 25-50 -- 5,000 6/5/04
    Spearfish 1947-95                
06432020 Spearfish Creek 1989-95 204 7.37 1,550 5/9 -- 5.86 2-- 2/9/89
    below Spearfish             5.31 163 6/6/91
06433000 Redwater River 1946-95 920 8.83 4,610 5/9 10-25 11.69 16,400 6/6/62
    above Belle                  
    Fourche                  
06433500 Hay Creek at 1954-95 121 10.23 1,310 5/9 100 9.15 930 6/19/72
    Belle Fourche                  
06436000 Belle Fourche River 1946-95 4,540 14.00 12,000 5/9 10-25 14.32 12,700 5/20/82
    near Fruitdale                  
06436156 Whitetail Creek at 1989-95 6.15 6.67 3-- 5/8 -- 3.56 39 7/20/93
    Lead                  
06436170 Whitewood Creek 1982-95 40.6 10.54 5,000 5/8 25-50 7.54 2,660 5/15/82
    at Deadwood                  

 

Table 2. Comparison of peak stage and streamflow data for March 1 through May 31, 1995, to previous maximums at selected gaging stations for period of record—Continued

        Flood of March-May 1995 Previous maximum
       

Station
number
Station name Period
of
record
(water
years)
Contri-buting
drainage
area
(mi2)
Peak
stage
(ft)
Peak
flow
(ft3/s)
Date Recur-
rence
interval
range1
(years)
Peak
stage
(ft)
Peak
flow
(ft3/s)
Date

06436180 Whitewood Creek 1983-95 56.3 9.06 3-- 5/8 -- 5.68 2,080 6/5/91
    above Whitewood                  
06436190 Whitewood Creek 1982-95 77.4 6.01 3-- 5/8 -- 4.52 3,050 5/20/82
    near Whitewood                  
06436198 Whitewood Creek 1983-95 102 5.72 4,200 5/8 10-25 4.32 3,680 9/24/86
    above Vale             5.06 2,520 5/5/93
06436760 Horse Creek above 1981-95 464 18.82 7,800 5/10 10-25 24.80 17,700 5/21/82
    Vale                  
06437000 Belle Fourche River 1946-95 5,870 17.10 21,500 5/10 25-50 19.10 36,400 5/21/82
    near Sturgis                  
06437020 Bear Butte Creek 1989-95 16.6 8.85 2,000 5/8 -- 7.70 938 6/5/91
    near Deadwood                  
06437500 Bear Butte Creek 1946-72, 192 10.96 5,460 5/8 10-25 12.45 12,700 6/16/62
    near Sturgis 1990-95                
06438000 Belle Fourche River 1929-32, 7,210 15.29 29,500 5/10 10-25 15.90 45,100 6/8/64
    near Elm Springs 1934-95           18.22 40,300 5/21/82
06438500 Cheyenne River 1951-81, 21,600 19.57 35,000 5/10 10-25 -- 41,700 5/26/57
    near Plainview 1994-95                
06452320 Platte Creek near 1989-95 741 11.29 2,600 5/11 -- 7.24 1,600 6/17/93
    Platte                  
06471000 James River at 1946-95 2,481 18.50 2-- 5/13 -- 16.15 2,340 5/3/79
    Columbia     16.95 21,660 5/22 <10 17.11 2-- 3/24/87
06471200 Maple River at 1957-95 384 12.49 23,000 3/16 10-25 16.05 25,930 4/11/69
    North Dakota-South                  
    Dakota State line                  
06471500 Elm River at 1946-95 1,049 17.64 2-- 3/16 10-25 22.11 12,600 4/10/69
    Westport     16.99 4,600 3/17        
06472000 James River near 1950-72, 4,860 19.86 3-- 5/18- -- 18.18 2-- 4/19/69
    Stratford 1977,       22   -- 5,580 5/14-15/69
    1995                
06473000 James River at 1946-95 5,673 22.39 2-- 5/18 -- 21.17 2-- 4/13/69
    Ashton     21.21 24,500 5/22 25-50 20.63 5,680 4/24/69
06474000 Turtle Creek near 1953-56, 1,124 14.28 4,300 5/11 10-25 18.51 26,000 4/5/69
    Tulare 1965-81,                
    1984-95                
06475000 James River near 1950-95 9,793 26.26 9,800 5/15 >100 24.93 7,310 4/13/69
    Redfield                  
06476000 James River at 1929-32, 11,721 16.86 10,000 5/19 50-100 16.70 9,000 4/13/69
    Huron 1944-95                
06476500 Sand Creek near 1950-95 261 12.91 1,880 4/20 10-25 14.10 2-- 3/28/50
    Alpena             13.35 2,240 3/28/60
06477000 James River near 1950-95 13,442 17.26 2-- 4/22 -- 17.16 12,500 4/9/69
    Forestburg     17.08 13,000 5/18 25-50      
06477500 Firesteel Creek near 1956-95 521 14.98 5,400 5/10 10-25 17.12 2-- 4/3/69
    Mt. Vernon             15.34 6,610 4/4/69
06478000 James River near 1954-58, 14,916 20.43 16,200 4/23 50-100 18.32 13,800 4/11/69
    Mitchell 1966-72,                
    1995                
06478052 Enemy Creek near 1975-87, 163 13.55 3,500 5/10 10-25 15.15 4,280 6/22/84
    Mitchell 1989-95                
06478300 Dry Creek near 1955-80, 97.2 -- 2,900 5/27 25-50 -- 4,210 3/27/60
    Parkston 1989-95                
06478500 James River near 1929-95 16,505 19.41 18,200 5/29 25-50 20.45 29,400 6/23/84
    Scotland                  
06478513 James River near 1982-95 16,794 21.46 20,800 5/30 10-25 24.34 26,400 6/23/84
    Yankton                  
06478690 West Fork Vermillion 1962-95 377 12.35 4,470 4/19 10-25 13.14 6,300 5/8/93
    River near Parker                  

1Recurrence intervals generally only given for stations with 10 or more years of record through 1993.
2Stage-flow relation affected by backwater.
3Peak-flow value is not given because rating analysis and/or indirect-measurement computations were not complete when this Fact Sheet was prepared; contact USGS District office in Rapid City to check on status of these computations.

 

 

Severe flooding occurred in western South Dakota and the Black Hills May 8-10. Flash flooding occurred across much of Butte, Custer, Lawrence, southwestern Meade, and western Pennington Counties. Damage to roads and bridges was widespread; rock and mudslides closed highways in Sturgis and in Boulder Canyon near Deadwood. Some smaller communities were isolated by road washouts. Many homes suffered water damage. About 120 Belle Fourche residents were forced from their homes on May 9 due to rising floodwaters. As the storms moved eastward, the flooding worsened in eastern South Dakota.

 

Streamflow on the James River was above flood stage from mid-March through May 31, 1995, and is compared in figure 2 to period-of-record and 1993 values at six gaging stations. The Missouri River reservoirs formed by the four main-stem dams in South Dakota were virtually full at the end of May and Lake Oahe was approaching a record elevation. Other lake levels in eastern South Dakota, especially in the northeast, exceeded levels that had not been reached in 100 years.

figure2
Figure 2. Mean March 1 through May 31 streamflow at James River gaging stations for period of record and 1993 and 1995.

 

Of the 143 streamflow-gaging stations operated by the USGS in South Dakota, 34 stations that are listed in table 2 had record peak flow or stage. The other 22 stations listed in table 2 did not have record peaks, but recurrence intervals of the peaks exceeded 10 years. Several of the stations with record peaks have periods of record less than 10 years. Most of the stations listed in table 2 had peak flow with recurrence intervals between 10 and 25 years. A few stations had peak flows with recurrence intervals in the 25- to 50-year range or the 50- to 100-year range. The May 9 peak flow of 1,310 ft3/s for Hay Creek at Belle Fourche had a recurrence interval equal to 100 years, and the May 15 peak flow of 9,430 ft3/s for the James River near Redfield exceeded 100 years.

 

As a result of the severe storms and widespread flooding, 38 counties in South Dakota were approved for disaster relief by a Presidential Declaration signed on May 26. Interstate Highway 90 and many State and county highways were overtopped and subsequently closed for varying periods of time. Extensive agricultural damage occurred; for example, only 55 percent of the State’s corn crop was planted as of June 4, compared to a 5-year average of 91 percent. By the end of May, the South Dakota Division of Emergency Management, working with FEMA, had conducted damage assessments in 35 counties and found that 1995 flood damage to State infrastructure already equaled the original 1993 flood-damage estimates.

Monitoring Streamflow

The USGS operates a network of 121 continuous-record streamflow-gaging stations and 22 crest-stage gages in South Dakota. The USGS also operates 47 precipitation gages in the Black Hills and one gage near Huron. During and after the flood, USGS personnel made flood measurements, indirect surveys, and surveyed high-water marks at more than 60 stations across the State.

 

At 31 of the streamflow stations, the data are relayed by satellite telemetry to computers in Rapid City, Huron, and Pierre (fig. 3). Data are transmitted every 15 minutes, and within 30 minutes these data generally are available to decision makers in the agencies involved in flood management. In addition, the USGS and cooperating agencies operate a network of telephone-accessible LARC and telemark gages where critical stage data are available on a real-time basis. The USGS Statewide data-collection network is readily available to local, county, State, and Federal agencies and to the public.

 

figure 3
Figure 3. Schematic diagram showing how streamflow data are transmitted, processed, and distributed.

 

 

Rainfall and streamflow data in this report are provisional and subject to change upon further review by personnel of the National Weather Service and the U.S. Geological Survey.

 

--R.W. Teller, M. J. Burr, and D.L. Rahder

 

For more information contact:

District Chief

1608 Mountain View Road

Rapid City, SD 57702

(605) 394-1743



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