For the first time in history, the Big Bend Dam spillway near Fort Thompson, South Dakota opened Friday morning, June 3, 2011 to release floodwaters. The total water release from the Dam is now adding 100,000 cubic feet of water per second to the projected Missouri River flood inundation area.
Historic Water Release
The gates of the spillway will slowly continue to open until Tuesday, June 7, when they reach their peak at a final rate of 150,000 cfs, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Northwestern Division.
This historic event heightens concerns for those living downstream from the Big Bend Dam in the Missouri River flood zone. This includes residents of Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska and Missouri.
The news of the dam release is devastating. As the flood waters creep closer, talk of insurance coverage in 500-year floodplains is common. Since the Missouri River flood isn't an unexpected natural disaster, will flood insurance cover property damage and loss? Residents of flood-prone areas still have to prepare. Luckily, they have a warning -- unlike in flash-flood situations.
Although community leaders are hosting town hall meetings to inform residents of the rising river, rumors are running wild in the flood zones. When will electrical services stop, will cell phones still work as the river rises and when will the public water supply be shut off?
Communities Work Together
Although the Missouri River Inundation maps provided by the USACE paint a grim picture, residents along the Missouri River basin have pulled together to help neighbors prepare for the worst. Residents in the Midwest have been filling sandbags, building dikes, reinforcing levees and preparing to evacuate since Memorial Day weekend.
Snow melt and rain in Montana, Northern Wyoming and the Western portions of North and South Dakota have prompted the Big Bend Dam release. The USACE encourages residents in the Missouri River flood zone to prepare for evacuation.