Langford area residents helped fill sandbags when the creek east of town went over its banks on Thursday night. From left to right are Casey Darling, Shari Schock, Dave Carson, and Amanda West. Photo by Lisa Carson)

Flooding Hits Marshall County

Sandbags Help Langford Turn Back Water

The Marshall County Commission held an emergency meeting Monday and filed for a Presidential Disaster Declaration due to spring flooding.

Many of the counties in South Dakota have filed paperwork with the state to request assistance due to flooding and water-covered roads.

Langford dodged a bit of a bullet last week, thanks in part to a number of volunteers that filled nearly 1,500 sandbags to help hold back flood waters. Members of the Langford Fire Department, the North Marshall Fire Department of Britton, 12-15 Langford Area students, eight to 10 Agtegra workers, and other community residents rallied together Thursday night when water came over the banks of the creek just east of town.

“We had a lot of help,” said Langford Utilities Manager Blair Healy. “There were a lot of loaders digging out the ditch; a lot of locals that came down and sandbagged, including high school kids two different times; and Agtegra let us use a trailer and pallets to haul sandbags.”

When Healy left work Thursday evening there was no indication of the impending floodwaters.

“I left work at 6 p.m. and everything looked fine,” said Langford Utilities Manager Blair Healy. “But something must have built up and let loose further east and we started having water issues about 10 p.m.”

Healy said the problem developed due to ice at the bottom of the creek.

“The water itself was only three to four feet deep but it was running over the top of the ice. Because of that the creek couldn’t handle it all and it went over the top of the bank and into town.”

But the sandbags, placed along the east bridge and on the northeast side of town, along with some modifications made after flooding several years ago, helped keep much of the water at bay. An excavator also cut through ice at the bottom of the creek to deepen the ditch.

“After the last incident four or five years ago we did some modifications on the railroad grade that we hoped would solve some of the problems, and it worked really well,” op a Marshall County exhibit that will go along with the Smithsonian story. In addition, some adult and children’s book discussions are planned, four hour-long films will be shown on April 25, May 5, May 26, and June 16 at the fort. Details can be found on the Fort Sisseton Facebook page.

Getting approval for the exhibit was not an easy process.

“The application was about 32 pages long, and they wanted to know everything from information about our fire department, to law enforcement, and security,” said Tonsfeldt. “We filled out the paperwork in August and found out we passed in January. It’s just a big credit to everybody around here that the Smithsonian thinks our place is worth hosting their exhibit. I look at it as a reward to our employees and volunteers at the fort and to Marshall County residents.

“The cool part is that this is not just a Fort Sisseton thing but is good for the economy of Marshall County,” Tonsfeldt added. “This isn’t our exhibit, it’s Marshall County’s exhibit, and it’s a win-win for everybody.”

At the grand opening on Saturday, South Dakota Director of Parks & Recreation Katie Ceroll, who formerly served as the manager at Fort Sisseton, will speak at a short program at 3 p.m. in the visitor’s center. Judy Gulleson of Britton who serves as president of the Fort Sisseton Commission will also speak. Food and drinks will be available and people will then have the opportunity to view the exhibit set up in two rooms of the North Barracks.

The Fort Sisseton Commission made it possible to bring the exhibit to the fort by providing the funding. After its stay in Marshall County the exhibit will travel to a very large museum in Florida.

The exhibit was shipped to Fort Sisseton on March 5, a day late due to one of many snowstorms this winter. A total of 12 crates that weighed 300 pounds each were unloaded from a semi – after a big snow blower from Roy Lake removed snow from the fort’s parade grounds to allow the truck to get close to the visitor’s center in the North Barracks where the display is located.

Tonsfeldt has already been fielding phone calls from people interested in coming for the exhibit.

“I’ve had people call from Missouri, Nebraska, and Minnesota that are planning trips around the exhibit. We were able to get it for the maximum 12 weeks, and I am excited to be able to have it here during the GFP Free Weekend in May and the Fort Sisseton Historical Festival in June.”

Tonsfeldt is anxious for others to feel the same excitement for the exhibit that she does.

“I think our biggest challenge is making sure we do justice to the exhibit. The fort employees and the commission are very proud to bring it here, and we want people to enjoy it as much as we are. We think this is absolutely neat, and think other people will feel the same way. I learn something new every time I go through it.”

The exhibit is now open during regular business hours, but Tonsfeldt encouraged residents to call for special times.

“We will work around schedules and hope churches, youth groups, schools, organizations, and just groups of friends take advantage of it. Don’t hesitate to call (448-5474).”

There is a chance that the exhibit could also lead to another from the Smithsonian in the near future.

“The Smithsonian is excited because they have never had an exhibit at a fort like this, and they did contact me about another exhibit called “100 Faces Of War.” It features paintings by an Afghanistan veteran of soldiers, wives, children of soldiers, and wounded soldiers with stories about each one. We would like to do that but will need to come up with funding.”

For now, Tonsfeldt is looking forward to the next 12 weeks.

“The exhibit allows us the opportunity to explore this fascinating aspect of our own region’s history, and we hope that it will inspire many to become even more involved in the cultural life of our community.”

Marshall County Journal

PO Box 69, Britton, SD 57430
Phone: (605) 448-2281
Fax: (605) 448-2282