Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Eagle Butte

Storm Ulmer drops on the plains: winds lock-down towns, melting threatens infrastructure

Drifts reaching rooftops, blocking roads and doorways, burying cars and cows resulted from the accumulation of snow as waves of winter storms brought life to halting stops and sputtering restarts over the past few months. 

In the latest storm, called Ulmer, snow was redistributed by strong winds, and the thawing and freezing temperature variations have made keeping up with the weather a challenge for local communities.

The midwest region faces extensive flooding damage now — particularly in Nebraska — and here on Cheyenne River, local officials are already assessing potential flooding damage as mounds of snow and ice disintegrate under the warming temperatures. 

“With the recent snowfalls, we are anticipating that the Moreau and Cheyenne Rivers will see flooding. We are hoping to get ahead of it,” said CRST Intergovernmental Affairs Coordinator Remi Beautiful Bald Eagle.

The tribe is working to clear up debris in areas along bridges and in front of culverts that could cause ice jams.

“We are working with outside agencies to obtain necessary equipment and additional funds. We’ve talked with federal and state agencies,” Beautiful Bald Eagle said.

Governor Kristi Noem issued a news release on March 14 indicating the opening of an Emergency Operations Center in Pierre, SD to “help coordinate the state’s response to ongoing blizzard and flood conditions.”

The tribe declared a State of Emergency on March 5, citing that the reservation “experienced more than 30” of snowfall since the beginning of the year.” The tribe also said that the federal government had been “slow to respond with little assistance outside of their normal operations.”

On March 15, Noem signed the Emergency Declaration allowing “the use of additional state funds for South Dakota counties impacted by this week’s blizzard and flood.”

“The storms this week have been extremely difficult for many of our communities,” Noem said. “This has been a statewide emergency with people impacted by heavy snow, high winds, rain, and freezing rain. This emergency declaration provides state agencies flexibility to help counties recover.”

Jamie Ducheneaux of DX Bait Shop said the storms caused many days of closures and the latest storm completely closed the access road to the bait shop.

Ducheneaux said rather than wait for a plow, he and another person began digging themselves out using shovels.

They dug about 1800 ft of snow before they were able to use a snow blower.

Ducheneaux’s bait shop revenue was negatively impacted by the storm-induced closure, and he is now searching for ways to make up for that loss.

One way he is doing this is by offering guided fishing tours, providing fishers a chance to “come as they are” with Ducheneaux offering all fishing essentials for an enjoyable and relaxing ice fishing experience.

Residents of Bear Creek gathered to clear the road to Highway 212 with shovels on March 14 because plows had not yet made it down their road.

Across the reservation, people bundled up and resorted to manpower, often gathering in small or large groups to help each other emerge from the warmth of their homes into the crisp and cold but sunny conditions once the winds died down and the snow began to melt.

That melting snow is exposing the damage the temperature variations have had on our roadways throughout the state. Potholes are making driving in Eagle Butte, Pierre and Sioux Falls more like an obstacle course for rough terrain vehicles than a road for commuting.

Depending on the extent of damage, the state may eventually request a Presidential Disaster Declaration asking for federal funds to aid recovery.

Three Mile Creek Rodeo Company in Kyle, SD hand shovels their stock out of the snow drifts.

In an aerial tour of the Cheyenne River Reservation, Tribal officials assessed damages from Ulmer, which blew snow into deep drifts, blocking doorways and roads and even burying cows, like those Three Mile Creek Rodeo Company had to dig out in Kyle, SD. Above, a photo of the bridge north of Promise shows debris piling up as the snow melts and the water flow increases. Photo by Remi Beautiful Bald Eagle

On the road between White Horse and Promise, runoff from the melting snow threatens to erode the road, and as the temperatures rise and water flow increases, further erosion threatens to wash out this road and many others across Cheyenne River. Photo by Remi Beautiful Bald Eagle

According to a post on Facebook by DJ Straighthead, Sherri Turning Heart, Randee Red Fox, Ahanni Knight, Ronaye Moran, Sunni Bagola, Brent Bagola, Alana LeBeau, Cecelio Montgomery, Nevyn Mendoza, Leon Alfred Brown Otter, Riley Miner and family, Monique and Garr Tavai-Fiatoa, Nadine Lee Slim, Stan Moran, and blade driver Joe Spotted Bear united to clear the Bear Creek road. The unified effort resulted in an outpour of good feelings. Facebook photo courtesy of Kaylista Gray Eagle

Thursday afternoon, after winds died down and the sun’s heat started to melt the accumulated snow and ice, Rocel Gonzolez and her husband, Dennis Pascaul and other neighbors clearing front of paths in front of their garage entrances and doorways. The group took turns shoveling for about an hour. Photo by Jody Rust

In this view of LaPlante housing, we can see the impact of blowing snow on the homes, with some drifts nearly reaching the rooftops, and other areas with ground exposure. Photo by Remi Beautiful Bald Eagle

Strong winds created sculpted snow drifts which residents at the District 20-1 housing complex had to dig through to get out of their apartments. People across the CRST shoveled out of doors and to vehicles on Thursday and Friday. Photo by Jody Rust