NORTH SIOUX CITY, S.D. (AP) — A swollen river that threatened homes where Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota meet crested earlier and at a lower level than expected early Friday. Minnesota officials toured waterlogged areas of that state, saying the severity and breadth of flooding make a federal disaster request a near certainty.
The less-serious crest of the Big Sioux River prompted crews take down sandbags and other containers blocking a section of Interstate 29 that acted as a temporary levee to protect an at-risk South Dakota city.
The road, which Lt. Gov. Matt Michels said remained dry while closed, reopened Friday afternoon. But some buildings, farmland and roads remain flooded, Michels said.
"Do not drive on a road with water. It may not be there," he said.
The National Weather Service had predicted earlier that the river would hit a record high around midday, but then said it crested at Sioux City, Iowa, around midnight a couple of feet below the previous record.
Days of thunderstorms upstream swelled the 420-mile-long river and threatened homes and businesses in the three surrounding states, including up to 400 in a neighborhood of North Sioux City, South Dakota.
Craig Dam, 48, who owns Dam Auto Sales in Sioux City, Iowa, was relieved the water had started to drop. Dam spent part of Friday removing a 3-foot-high row of sandbags from the front and side of his house that friends, family, neighbors and students from a nearby high school put up on Thursday.
"People just came out to help," he said.
Had the river overtaken the interstate, the plan was for the water to flow down his street and empty into an empty lot.
The change in the crest was due to a large amount of water released Tuesday night when a levee failed upstream at Akron, Iowa, said Mike Gillispie, a hydrologist at the National Weather Service in Sioux Falls.
"Enough water went through the levee failure out into agricultural land there that it lowered the amount of water coming through at peak crest at Sioux City," he said.
The river had been expected to crest at Sioux City about a foot above the 108.3-foot record set in 1969. Instead, it peaked at 105.6 feet and began dropping.
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