PIERRE, S.D. (AP) – Gov. Kristi Noem is encouraging residents in the Big Sioux River Valley in eastern South Dakota to start preparing for record flooding.

The National Weather Service expects flooding to start as soon as this weekend. Forecasters say flood waters could reach historic levels. Melting snow and rain have raised the water levels in Big Sioux River Valley north of Watertown to south of Sioux Falls.

Noem says it’s not a matter of if, but when flooding will occur and impact homes, businesses, roads and farms.

Last week Noem ordered the State Emergency Operations Center to open in the Mickelson Law Enforcement Center in Pierre to help coordinate the state’s response to last week’s blizzard and flooding. Several state agencies are working within the operations center to prepare for upcoming flooding.

AP-WF-03-19-19 1048GMT