Residents in three US cities have been urged to evacuate their homes amid fears of a prolonged period of flooding along the Missouri River.
South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard asked people in threatened areas in the state capital of Pierre and neighbouring Fort Pierre as well as Dakota Dunes to leave by tonight.
His announcement was a request and not a mandatory evacuation, but law enforcement officials were going door-to-door with the warning.
Flooding is a concern as the United States Army Corps of Engineers releases excess water from Missouri River dams after record rainfall across the northern Plains. Heavy run-off from melting Rocky Mountains snow could soon compound the problem, and officials say flooding could last into July.
Protective levees being built around the three South Dakota levees were expected to reach above river levels, but some homes could still be threatened.
Mr Daugaard said 800 of the 1,100 homes in Dakota Dunes could be subject to flooding. About 2,000 people and 800 homes and businesses are threatened by flooding far upstream in Pierre, with several hundred more people in Fort Pierre’s flood zone.
“As the water flow increases, we want to make sure we protect human life as we evaluate how the levees are doing, how fast the water is being released and whether the areas are going to be safe,” he said.
Meanwhile, Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer yesterday asked President Barack Obama to declare a major disaster in that flooded state, as a break in the weather allowed residents to dry out and prepare for another round of high water which could arrive in the coming weeks.
And in Minot, North Dakota, residents were dealing with another rising waterway as officials ordered evacuation along four miles of the Souris River.
It is the Army Corps’ plans to increase the rate of water being released from Gavins Point Dam upstream of Dakota Dunes which is causing concern for the community situated at the junction of South Dakota, Nebraska and Iowa. The corps plans to gradually increase releases through this week before peaking in mid-June.