Environment | National

Native Sun News: Big blizzard bashes Pine Ridge Reservation

The following story was written and reported by Brandon Ecoffey, Native Sun News Managing Editor. All content © Native Sun News.

Traffic was backed up for miles at Wall and Highway I-90 was blocked all the way to Rapid City. COURTESY/Jackie Giago

BLIZZARD of 2013
By Brandon Ecoffey
Native Sun News Managing Editor

RAPID CITY—Heavy rains, winds, lightning, and eventually snow were the gifts that winter storm Atlas, brought to residents of Wyoming and South Dakota. The storm that has been labeled as a 100 year storm brought just over two feet of snow to the majority of areas in its path and up to forty in others.

The storm would leave tens of thousands without power and even more stranded in their homes and the most unfortunate in stranded in cars alongside highways across the state. According to Black Hills Power the outages were the worst in the company’s history and the company estimated that there were approximately 28,000 customers without power.

On Monday there were still roughly 13,000 people without power in Rapid City alone. Black Hills power customers were joined by those with electrical service from West River Electric and LaCreek electric who experienced severe power outages. Residents in Wounded Knee, Manderson, and Red Cloud community located west of Pine Ridge were some of the hundreds of communities impacted by the mass power outages.

As the storm began dumping precipitation in the early morning hours on October 5, many residents expected it to only be a heavy rain as thunder woke residents and bright lightning strikes blazed across the twilight sky. As the morning progressed in western South Dakota the rain turned to snow despite the continuation of loud claps of thunder and flashes of lightning. By the midafternoon the snow had arrived and would not let up until early Saturday morning.

On the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation the storm not only left thousands without power but as many if not more stranded in homes located off of the main highways and urban centers. The high amounts of reservation residents who live in isolated locations created unique problems for members of the Oglala Sioux Tribes emergency response personal. In the late hours of Friday night OST public safety vehicles were becoming stuck in drifts while trying to reach others who were caught in the storm. OST Police Department along with the Rapid City Police Department issued travel bans that were violated by many stressing the already burdened departments to strain their limited resources.

On Monday workers from the OST Roads department were continuing working 16-20 hour shifts on the reservation in attempts to clear roadways for the elderly, sick, and general population.

Oglala Sioux Tribal President Bryan Brewer said the tribe was implementing all available resources to rectify the situation and on Monday during a special session of the Oglala Sioux Tribal council declared the reservation to be in a State of Emergency.

“The tribe is mobilizing all available resources. We still have people stranded and as the snow melts flooding is going to be a major issue. We are now making preparations to evacuate those who are in live in areas that we know have flooded in the past. Tribal workers are doing their best to clear roadways and allow for people to make it out of their homes. The dangers associated with this storm are still very real and imminent,” said President Brewer.

As of Monday morning KILI radio located on the reservation had logged over 2,000 calls and did not “expect them to slow down anytime soon. On IHS compounds and in BIA housing maintenance workers cleared snow from driveways and streets despite not being paid for their hours due to the government shutdown that is still in effect.

(Contact Brandon Ecoffey at staffwriter2@nsweekly.com)

Copyright permission by Native Sun News

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