Are we ready for the next big disaster in Sioux Falls?

(Video and Commentary by Cameraman Bruce Danielson)

To let you know I’m not a full time cynic or complainer. 30 years ago I traveled the United States developing disaster recovery programs and systems for major corporations and governments. I ask many questions from this spot because I see issues stemming secrecy and lack of transparency coming from poor planning processes. Some of the projects I developed solutions for allowed major banking institutions to survive and operate during the 1989 and 1994 California earthquakes and more.

I sent all of you a Press Release last week asking three basic questions:
1. Is Sioux Falls ready to handle a major catastrophic event?
2. Have we done preparedness drills?
3. Do we have mutual aid agreements in place with surrounding communities for fire, police and ambulance services?

So far our review says we don’t have a yes to any of these questions. It’s time for the citizens to ask the town to make major leadership changes in this election before it’s too late.

Last Monday as I left downtown, I stopped to assess the train derailment under the 11th Street viaduct. What I saw shocked me and should cause everyone in Sioux Falls to consider the ramifications and lack of benefit we get from our mayor’s $27 million rail relocation project.

The events this week should shock and scare us to the point of action.

The train derailment missed becoming a mass casualty incident by a razor thin margin.

Fortunately, these rail cars contained grain.

However, other hazardous substances able to quickly gas or burn downtown Sioux Falls are regularly transported on the same route through our downtown.

The derailment of a car containing more hazardous substances like ammonia fertilizer could destroy or paralyze several square miles of Sioux Falls very quickly.

Potentially thousands of people would have had to be evacuated if they had not been killed.

I took the accompanying photos during the early and post derailment clean-up process. Photos show four rail cars on their sides with grain spilling out. Workers were already cleaning up the grain.

The photos also show how the railcars slid within a foot or so of taking out a pillar holding the bridge up. It was very likely the viaduct would have collapsed.

The 4 fully loaded railcars weighed about 1,000,000 pounds, that’s 1 million pounds of kinetic energy pushing into the ground, possibly moving the pillar’s foundation.

What would happen not if, but when, several million pounds of rail cars land differently next time?

As it is, have the footing been inspected by a reputable state highway inspector?

Once the pillar support can be inspected, the viaduct may yet be closed. Get answer to the question: Did the sliding rail car disturb the bridge foundation?

At several city meetings we ask to see City disaster recovery plans for disasters.

My requests for disaster plans seemed to be reasonable given how many full time disaster recovery planners are paid high City salaries.

Regardless, in answer to my requests for the plans, only blank stares or claims of computer simulation games are given. Now we’re back to when will Sioux Falls and Minnehaha County get real mutual aid ambulance agreements? We never receive a straight story from this administration; will we get one from the next?

Secret agreements, deals and no transparency is all we find as we get when we dig into Sioux Falls city government. The released SDPAA training exercise project being portrayed by our administration as a real report shows how little our current government cares for the real health and safety of the public.

We got very, very lucky this time. What will happen when the next derailment or tornado happens?

No doubt the people who were paid to plan for these events will blame it on everyone else and claim it was the fault of the administration who happens to be in office at the time of the disaster.

Why is it always an act of God?

Where is this discussion in the current campaign?

Why does someone have to die for action to happen? Heck someone did die in the Copper Lounge collapse, and the city hires them to do a public/private partnership with them. I guess the city’s policy is to reward the entities that abuse the public.


#1 The D@ily Spin on 04.04.18 at 9:38 am

It would seem the city has no disaster plan. We pay them with taxes to protect us. They divert funds into building inferior indoor recreation. Worse, they saddle the city with insurmountable debt. The sky is not falling but I make it a habit to not enter into any city built or zoning approved construction. The Viaduct is over the cardboard homes for Huetherville. Perhaps an ammonia spill is Huether’s answer to the homeless problem.

#2 guest on 04.04.18 at 9:50 am

at what speeds do trains travel when going through the city?

after the crash that happened up in ND where the tank cars were easily punctured and started on fire I believe tank cars are now required to have a thicker shell and other safety features. Those trains were probably traveling at a much higher speed if the crash occurred in a rural area.

Its possible damage could occur but I wonder if the trains even travel fast enough with in the city for a big disaster to occur? All of the old tank cars should have been phased out by now I would hope.

Your concerns have some merit but I am not sure its all doom and gloom as you propose. But maybe the city will have to hire and pay some more consultants to get the answer which will then be kept from the public.

#3 Response on 04.04.18 at 10:53 am

I do not work for the city, but I do know that the City of Sioux Falls is extremely well prepared for any type of disaster. The answer to all three of your questions is firm yes. You can choose to believe that or not, but your choice does not change the fact Sioux Falls is well prepared. As to why you do not get a response? Not sure. Can only guess it is because people rarely want to help someone who makes them feel constantly attacked. It may also change when Huether is finally gone.

#4 "Very Stable Genius" on 04.04.18 at 1:07 pm

No expansion of ObamaCare, but we do have $ 27 million for Buffet….

#5 Bruce on 04.04.18 at 4:33 pm

Believing there is a plan, proven by real testing does not get replaced with computer simulations. I have been in meetings and asked the questions and the answers have been consistently NO to all. I do know for certain we have never established mutual aid agreements. If we have an emergency, our neighbors are under no obligation to assist us.

I have been in disaster and recovery planning in my past work. I ask the questions from experience. I know what I should be hearing for answers. We have overpaid report writers who like to play computer games and call it preparedness.

The speed of the train has nothing to do with hitting a bridge pillar, taking down a main artery holing together our town. A chemical leak could render the entire center of useless for thousands if they survive the vapors. A fuel or oil rail car could burn and destroy the concrete and kill the residents living by the track.

We should all know what to do in an emergency before the emergency happens.

Pathetic idiots in charge.