Fall River County Commissioners held a special meeting last Tuesday to vote on a Disaster Declarations Resolution after the collapse of a county bridge on County Highway 5, east of Ardmore, SD. The bridge collapsed early Saturday morning, blocking residents from traveling west to Ardmore and SD-71.
By officially declaring a disaster, County officials plan to use possible State and Federal disaster relief funds to pay for bridge repairs plus other costs from this years severe winter weather.
Randy Seiler, Highway Superintendent, updated county commissioners on his team's efforts. By Tuesday morning, highway crews made great progress clearing debris and filling holes to allow for local traffic.
As of Tuesday night, crews had completed temporary measures allowing local residents to cross under dry conditions.
A proposed solution to repair the Highway 5 bridge is to install box culverts—spanning the ditch while diverting water into the adjacent spillway.
Installing box culverts will cost the county significantly less money than constructing a bridge and will provide adequate support for the amount of local traffic common for this part of County Highway 5.
Fall River County has declared 11 official emergencies since 1953. Most recently, the Vineyard Fire was declared an official emergency in 2018. The fire started on August 11, 2018, burned 560 acres and took 6 days to contain.
This year's declaration will work to resolve issues from this season's winter storms, Ulmer and Wesley, where damage from widespread flooding caused: road and bridge damage; property and livestock loss among other issues.
These series of winter storms were strengthened by an event that meteorologists call a "bomb cyclone", a rapid deepening of an "extratropical cyclonic low-pressure area". More simply—when air pressure drops rapidly, a storm strengthens explosively. The standard is when air pressure drops at least 24 millibars in 24 hours time.
Winter Storm Wesley was the second of such storms to hit the plains regions in less then a month. Winter Storm Ulmer passed over the region on March 13th, dropping close to 18 inches in the southern parts of Fall River county and the northern panhandle of Nebraska.