Disaster declared in counties throughout Black Hills
As the clean up continues from the weekend blizzard, the damage assessments get underway. Officials in Meade County and Pennington County declared state of emergencies.
In a special Pennington County Commissioners meeting, the disaster declaration was made official. That paperwork, now headed down the pipeline, lets the county sit and wait to see what kind of relief will come its way.
Praise for the efforts of first responders and the Emergency Operation Center during the storm echoed through the county commissioner's meeting. Dustin Willett is with Pennington County Emergency Management and said the level of cooperation was unbelievable.
"The list goes on," Willett said. "Everybody that was here, everybody that was working stayed working.
While the worst may be behind the region, efforts are now shifting to the recovery phase.
"I know there were several, a lot of telephone calls coming in, people are disgruntled at things but then that's understandable," said Pennington County Commissioner Ken Davis. "But what they forget was that there's 90 thousand people in Pennington County and every one of them had about the same problem."
The disaster declaration marked the first step in receiving state and federal funding for clean up. That help comes welcomed in the region.
"How these people can take care of that themselves, I don't have a clue because it's just too heavy a debris for most people to handle," Davis said.
Any funding, including FEMA reserves from the federal government, could take weeks to reach South Dakota. Officials are expecting that, but aren't slowing down the recovery efforts.
"We certainly aren't sitting on our hands waiting for the state or the feds to offer a solution," Willett said.
In the coming days, The Pennington County Commissioners will decide how to pay for what, promising to be a long process for everyone involved.
"Before people start putting saw to wood at the county's behest, we will have those policies, procedures, what has to happen," Willett said. "We need to have that in place."
During the meeting, the commissioners also had a lot of questions about the devastating loss of livestock many of the area ranchers are now facing.
The Animal Industry Board met with Governor Dennis Dauugard's office Tuesday to see what the state could provide - from a funding standpoint - for those ag producers.
Even U.S representative Kristi Noem spoke out to ranchers in western South Dakota, urging them to document everything over the next few days.
"Document as best as possible what those losses are and where they took place," Noem said. "Producers should take pictures, write down cattle ID tag numbers, get a head count.
"And also have a third, disinterested party verify their losses. This could be a neighbor, a veterinarian, someone other than a family member that could visually see the losses, write sign and date a note saying they saw the losses and the number of cattle that were affected."
Livestock producers should also keep handy all receipts and documents for claims and relief programs. It is unknown when disaster programs through the U.S. Department of Agriculture will become available.