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.
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|
|Sioux Falls||14.64||13.78 (1920)|
|1Preliminary National Weather Service data (A.R. Bender, State Climatologist, written commun., June 1995)|
|Figure 1. Preliminary National Weather Service precipitation data for March 1 through May 31, 1995 (A.R. Bender, State Climatologist, written commun., June 1995).|
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|
|06354882||Oak Creek near||1985-95||356||18.58||5,000||3/14||--||17.73||3,780||3/4/86|
|Creek near Game||1977-95||10.84||1,030||9/7/89|
|06406000||Battle Creek at||1950-95||178||12.70||2,360||5/8||10-25||17.72||21,400||6/10/72|
|06407500||Spring Creek near||1946-47,||163||7.15||1,100||5/9||10-25||--||865||6/23/47|
|near Rapid City||31.65||--||6/17/93|
|06424000||Elk Creek near||1946,||21.5||--||354||5/8||--||7.87||154||6/8/93|
|06425100||Elk Creek near||1981-95||190||12.05||2,860||5/9||10-25||10.79||1,560||5/20/82|
|06428500||Belle Fourche River||1947-95||3,280||16.33||3--||5/10||--||15.59||4,400||6/18/62|
|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|
|Dakota State line||1955-95|
|Creek near Lead|
|06430898||Squaw Creek near||1989-95||6.95||7.89||860||5/8||--||5.37||96||6/8/93|
|06431500||Spearfish Creek at||1904,||168||10.70||2,600||5/8||25-50||--||5,000||6/5/04|
|06433500||Hay Creek at||1954-95||121||10.23||1,310||5/9||100||9.15||930||6/19/72|
|06436000||Belle Fourche River||1946-95||4,540||14.00||12,000||5/9||10-25||14.32||12,700||5/20/82|
|06436156||Whitetail Creek at||1989-95||6.15||6.67||3--||5/8||--||3.56||39||7/20/93|
|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 recordContinued|
|Flood of March-May 1995||Previous maximum|
|06436760||Horse Creek above||1981-95||464||18.82||7,800||5/10||10-25||24.80||17,700||5/21/82|
|06437000||Belle Fourche River||1946-95||5,870||17.10||21,500||5/10||25-50||19.10||36,400||5/21/82|
|06437020||Bear Butte Creek||1989-95||16.6||8.85||2,000||5/8||--||7.70||938||6/5/91|
|06437500||Bear Butte Creek||1946-72,||192||10.96||5,460||5/8||10-25||12.45||12,700||6/16/62|
|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|
|06452320||Platte Creek near||1989-95||741||11.29||2,600||5/11||--||7.24||1,600||6/17/93|
|06471000||James River at||1946-95||2,481||18.50||2--||5/13||--||16.15||2,340||5/3/79|
|06471200||Maple River at||1957-95||384||12.49||23,000||3/16||10-25||16.05||25,930||4/11/69|
|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|
|06472000||James River near||1950-72,||4,860||19.86||3--||5/18-||--||18.18||2--||4/19/69|
|06473000||James River at||1946-95||5,673||22.39||2--||5/18||--||21.17||2--||4/13/69|
|06474000||Turtle Creek near||1953-56,||1,124||14.28||4,300||5/11||10-25||18.51||26,000||4/5/69|
|06475000||James River near||1950-95||9,793||26.26||9,800||5/15||>100||24.93||7,310||4/13/69|
|06476000||James River at||1929-32,||11,721||16.86||10,000||5/19||50-100||16.70||9,000||4/13/69|
|06476500||Sand Creek near||1950-95||261||12.91||1,880||4/20||10-25||14.10||2--||3/28/50|
|06477000||James River near||1950-95||13,442||17.26||2--||4/22||--||17.16||12,500||4/9/69|
|06477500||Firesteel Creek near||1956-95||521||14.98||5,400||5/10||10-25||17.12||2--||4/3/69|
|06478000||James River near||1954-58,||14,916||20.43||16,200||4/23||50-100||18.32||13,800||4/11/69|
|06478052||Enemy Creek near||1975-87,||163||13.55||3,500||5/10||10-25||15.15||4,280||6/22/84|
|06478300||Dry Creek near||1955-80,||97.2||--||2,900||5/27||25-50||--||4,210||3/27/60|
|06478500||James River near||1929-95||16,505||19.41||18,200||5/29||25-50||20.45||29,400||6/23/84|
|06478513||James River near||1982-95||16,794||21.46||20,800||5/30||10-25||24.34||26,400||6/23/84|
|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.
|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 States 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.
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. 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:
1608 Mountain View Road
Rapid City, SD 57702
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Last modified: Tuesday, February 18 2014, 12:50:44 PM