Hope Keeps Larson’s Rebuilding Effort on Course

May 23, 2012 by · Comments Off on Hope Keeps Larson’s Rebuilding Effort on Course 

It was like nothing Siouxland had ever seen. Until the summer of 2011, Gavins Point Dam had never released more than 70,000 cubic feet of water per second, KTIV-TV, Sioux City, Iowa, reported.

By late May, releases were expected to reach 110,000 to 120,000 cfs. Even those estimates fell short.

On June 23, the dam reached an astounding peak of 160,000 cfs, enough to fill more than 2 million, 2-liter soda bottles every second.

That water ended up drowning an RV and trailer community called Larson’s Landing, near Yankton, S.D.

Folks made it out OK, but many of their summer homes were lost.

Larry Steinbrecher has set up camp in Larson’s Landing near Yankton, South Dakota, for three years now.

Last summer’s record flooding destroyed more than just his campsite. “For myself, it was just an unmanageable,” he said.

Sandbags were set up to keep the current from sweeping away the river bank. They’re still there.

Owner Doug Larson said they may have saved part of the land. But when the water receded, he didn’t even know where to begin.

“There was so much debris and junk and it was really just disheartening to look at it all,” said Larson.

Last year, when Steinbrecher heard about the possibility of flood waters moving in, he had moved everything out.

“We had trailers and trucks and all kinds of stuff, packed out. When we left there was nothing on our property except for sand,” said Steinbrecher.

The Steinbrechers were one of the first families to move back in after the waters receded. Now, like many other residents, Steinbrecher spends most of his days clearing the shoreline and grinding up stumps and driftwood.

“We have the second shot at doing stuff,” said Steinbrecher. “So, when we came back we really had a chance to improve on our site.”

While waters knocked out a large portion of the beach at Larson’s Landing, including a section that used to be a volleyball court, the Larsons are confident that they’ll be able to rebuild, even if it takes some time.

That hope is what keeps Larson going.

“If it wasn’t for that,” said Larson. “Linda and I would have jumped in the river a long time ago.”

Doug Larson hopes to have 30 new pads ready for residents by the Fourth of July.

Flood Victim Heads Home, But Others Stay in RV Parks

August 3, 2011 by · Comments Off on Flood Victim Heads Home, But Others Stay in RV Parks 

Some of the RV sites at the North Sioux City KOA where Missouri River flood victims have spent much of the summer.

On Saturday (July 30), Steve DeBoom packed up the RV, checked out of the North Sioux City, S.D., KOA Kampground and headed home to Dakota Dunes.

Life is looking up.

So sick from cancer treatments that “I had to be pushed up here,” when he fled the threat of Missouri River flooding two months ago, DeBoom is going home under his own power. His health has improved to the point that he can handle the steps in his townhouse, and he is planning a trip to Utah to see a new great-granddaughter, the Sioux Falls Argus Leader reported.

“It’s kind of silly to live in this (recreational vehicle) with a house just down the street,” he said Thursday on his next-to-last day of extended camping.

DeBoom is one of hundreds of residents of southeast South Dakota – mostly in the Dakota Dunes and Riverland Estates areas just northwest of Sioux City, Iowa – who were forced to flee flooding in late May when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers ramped up releases from Missouri River Dams.

While DeBoom’s home never fell victim to the high water, he evacuated on the advice of officials because he lived within a zone they worried would flood. Now, he’s going home.

But hundreds of other area residents up and down the river – from Bismarck, N.D., to Pierre and Fort Pierre, to Dakota Dunes – aren’t as fortunate. The Flood of 2011 remains their antagonist.

Corps of Engineers officials announced Friday a schedule for cutting the flow of water from Gavins Point Dam near Yankton and the other dams on the mainstem system. But corps officials have offered no specific projection when Dakota Dunes and nearby residential developments will dry out so all homeowners can return.

During the news conference Friday, state Sen. Dan Lederman asked when the evacuation order for Dakota Dunes would be lifted. John Remus, chief of the Omaha District’s hydrological engineering branch, answered by saying that river flows in Sioux City could drop below flood stage by late August.

Not having such basic information to plan their future might be the most difficult part for those displaced by the flood.

Click here to read the entire story.

Missouri River Flooding Becomes Tourist Draw

August 2, 2011 by · Comments Off on Missouri River Flooding Becomes Tourist Draw 

Aerial view of Gavins Point Dam in normal times.

Flooding along the Missouri River has devastated local homes and businesses this summer. But its impact on tourism isn’t so black and white, KELO-TV, Sioux Falls, S.D., reported.

The high water may be keeping people away from traditional vacation spots and attractions, but the water’s also causing more intrigue.

The water at Larson’s Landing in Yankton, S.D., has actually gone down. But not enough to keep it running.

“Unfortunately, at the beginning of summer, we did have to close two of our campgrounds,” Yankton Convention & Visitors Bureau director Lisa Scheve said.

Scheve says the start of summer was difficult for the city, simply convincing people the area was safe.

“Towards the beginning of June, we did have some concerns,” Scheve said. “There were some cancellations at some of our accommodations because people were concerned they weren’t going to be able to make it here.”

But as the waters continued rushing at a historic pace, the more people wanted to see.

“It’s worked both ways, positively and negatively,” Scheve said. “I think we’ve seen an increase in exposure with more people coming to the area that possibly haven’t been here before. People are making day trips to come and see Gavins Point Dam west of Yankton and the releases it’s had here.”

Gavins Point Dam has become the de facto tourist attraction in Yankton, with people from all across the country amazed by its power.

“I think it’s impressive,” Grand Rapids, Mich., resident Marv Van Heuvelen said. “I was through Yankton once before and it was just a gently flowing river.”

“People are coming in, using gas stations and restaurants, checking out our visitors centers to try to learn more information not only on Gavins Point Dam, but the rest of the area,” Scheve said.

Even though the releases at Gavins Point Dam have gone down, tourism officials expect it to be an attraction for the rest of the summer.

“Regardless of releases, there’s always a different wave of people who come through throughout the summer,” Scheve said. “There are definitely lots of families because kids are out of school.”

And while Gavins Point has proven to be a major draw, that’s not the case downstream in South Sioux City, Neb.

“I probably receive about 10 to 15 phone calls a day asking if the bridges are open,” South Sioux City Convention & Visitors Bureau director Brent Clark said.

Clark says he’s had to fend off major rumors throughout the summer. The bridges are still open, and while there’s an intrigue in what the situation looks like, that’s not helping the city’s bottom line.

“We have seen a decrease in lodging and tax dollars,” Clark said. “Usually, in these types of months, it’s our highest revenue source in the summertime.”

Clark says a lot of campgrounds and baseball fields are flooded, but he encourages people to go to areas that are open like Crystal Cove Park. And as the summer winds down, tourism officials along the Missouri River have accepted how the flooding is just another part of their respective areas.

“You really just move forward and make lemonade out of the lemons you’re dealt,” Clark said.

“You take each punch as it comes,” Scheve said. “You roll with the punches as the days change and situations change and try to make sure that we continue to keep Yankton’s name out there in a positive manner.”

Scheve says the intrigue at Gavins Point has also impacted visitors centers around the area. She says all the centers around the area have set new records already this summer.

Click here to view release of water from the Gavins Point Dam. Video is courtesy of the Argus Leader.

Relief Coming for Flooded Larson’s Landing

July 28, 2011 by · Comments Off on Relief Coming for Flooded Larson’s Landing 

Some relief is on the way for Larson’s Landing, the RV park located the Missouri River in Yankton, S.D., which has been inundated by floodwaters this summer, the Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan reported.

The Army Corps of Engineers announced earlier this month it would reduce releases at Gavins Point Dam from 160,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 155,000 cfs Saturday (July 30), followed by a reduction to 150,000 cfs on Aug. 1. Current projections call for releases to remain at 150,000 cfs through Aug. 12.

Doug Larson, owner of Larson’s Landing, said he is looking forward to the lowered releases.

So far, the RV park has lost 17 of 22 mobile homes and 45 of 62 RV pads due to floodwaters.

“If it goes down to a 150,000, it will take a lot of pressure off my sandbags on the west side, which it’s going over right now,” he said.

While the slight decrease in water levels will help, Larson said he won’t be able to do much with the park just yet.

“Once they get it down to maybe 120,000, we can start cleaning some of the area,” he said. “It’ll go down about a foot when it gets to 150,000, but that isn’t enough to get it out of the park yet. When it gets down to 120,000, we should be able to get into part of the park and start cleaning that up.”

Campers Recall Sunday’s Violent Storm

August 10, 2010 by · Comments Off on Campers Recall Sunday’s Violent Storm 

This is a map of the Lewis & Clark Lake west of Yankton, S.D., where a storm Sunday night tossed campers staying at the Cottonwood Campground, located at the east end (right side of lake). Yankton is the red blotch at right. Red dots mark campgrounds located on the lake.

People are picking up the pieces after a dangerous thunderstorm rolled through South Dakota Sunday night, leaving behind a trail of destruction. Near Yankton, trees snapped like toothpicks, and campers flipped with people still inside, KELO-TV, Sioux Falls, reported.

Three campgrounds near the Gavins Point Dam, which stands on the Missouri River west of Yankton,  were slammed head on with straight-line winds of up to 70 mph. Of the hundreds of people there Sunday night, two were taken to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries, and countless others received scratches and bruises from the storm. One Iowa family says they’re just happy no one was seriously hurt, especially when their campers overturned with their children still inside.

Without warning, the winds picked up fast.

“All of a sudden, my husband says, ‘Denise, go to their campground tell them to take cover.’ He went to our campground to get the girls,” Denise Schreier said.

Schreier ran to get her 4-year-old son in one camper, while her husband, Paul, ran to warn their daughter and her friend in a separate one. But neither of them made it in time.

“Carla and her son got out, Brian went to grab his dogs and my son and the camper just flipped over, rolled twice right in front of me. I darted behind a tree our camper went over,” Denise said.

“As soon as my dad reached for the door, we saw him out the window, it flipped. I went flying and the mattress was on me, and I blacked out,” Tawney Schreier said.

Thirteen-year-old Tawney and her 12-year-old friend, Melea Nielsen, say it happened so fast and without warning. When Tawney came to, she called 911.

“Things were breaking when we were trying to stand on them from all the water leaking in,” Tawney said.

And it’s hard to believe that just feet away, her little brother was tossed in this camper that landed with the door to the ground. Their friend inside broke a window and climbed out, with Brayden and his two pets. Brayden received scratches on his arm and their friend a bump on the head. Everyone is just happy no one was seriously injured.

“Things can be replaced, and we’re glad everybody’s OK,” Denise said.

Crews at Cottonwood campground are also trying to lift trees off of campers.

Some of the trees that were damaged Sunday night were almost 100 feet tall and several decades old.

Among the hundreds of people that were staying at these campgrounds, only about two dozen campers were overturned. For the Schreier family, it’s proof of Mother Nature’s strength and a sign that lives can change in an instant.

“Last night, it was really hard to go to sleep because you could see all the flashbacks, of everything broken around you,” Tawney said.