By Jody Rust
Winter weather warnings caused many organizations, schools and businesses to shut down or work with skeletal staffing on Monday and Tuesday this week.
High winds and freezing temperatures left drifts in doorways and across streets, creating whiteout conditions and icy spots on highways, streets and rural routes.
A no travel advisory was issued Monday and Tuesday on Highway 212 from Dupree to the Missouri River Bridge.
An Emergency Command Center was set up at the EPA office off Airport Road to handle various reported incidents and determine their severity, said CRST Emergency Management Director Harold Tiger.
Tiger said he checked with several institutions, including the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Messaging Center in Aberdeen, and the South Dakota Department of Transportation.
Once Tiger gathered as much detailed information about the weather and road conditions, he reports his findings along with a recommendation to the tribal Incident Commander, which is tribal Chairman Harold Frazier.
The Chairman and Vice Chairman, Robert Chasing Hawk, take that information to determine whether or not to call off work for the tribal employees, set a delayed schedule, and what travel advisory should be issued for the local area.
Tiger said he works with other local entities such as the school system, which usually sends bus drivers out to check on road conditions.
Once a decision has been made the different institutions take the steps to notify the public of any closings, delays, or travel warnings.
The tribe’s Intergovernmental Affairs Coordinator, Remi Beautiful Bald Eagle, will post information on the official Tribal Facebook page, and Tiger said he ensures that radio stations are informed to make public service announcements.
“I hope to use the Cheyenne River radio station soon. They are projecting broadcasting at the end of this month or next month,” Tiger said.
So far, this most recent storm did not overwhelmed the systems in place to help the public navigate the dangers that could result from the storm, Tiger said.
Some people ran out of propane and needed assistance, some people had car trouble or were involved in slide-offs, but nothing the current city and tribal workers could not handle with available resources Tiger said.
States of emergency are called when the conditions and needs of the public overwhelm the local systems and resources already in place to manage adverse conditions.
While the winter months wane to spring, and April showers are teasing us with warmer weather, Tiger said that South Dakota weather is not always predictable, and even the experts have gotten forecasts wrong before.
Typically, winter starts in late October, but this year the winter weather did not arrive until January.
Last year, Tiger said that winter stretched into May, and it did not even seem like there was a spring.
At the South Dakota National Weather Service Conference, Tiger said there was discussion about the changing weather patterns, and experts said that the melting polar caps releasing gases into the atmosphere are affecting the weather temperature and the ozone layer.
Increased temperature changes impact wind patterns and cause shifts in weather patterns across different regions, including the plains region. Whether the cause is natural or a result of human activity, Tiger does not want to speculate.
“I am happy to see the moisture now,” Tiger said, “so we won’t have as much of a drought this summer.”
The storm let up by late Tuesday, and by Wednesday the streets of Cheyenne River communities were back to business as usual.