Gov. Noem surveys flood damage on Pine Ridge Reservation

PINE RIDGE S.D. — The Pine Ridge Reservation is now in day 10 of a state of emergency after the winter storm caused wide-spread flooding and evacuations in the area.

As emergency crews from across the state have chipped in resources, Governor Kristi Noem visited the Reservation on Saturday to survey the damage and meet with first responders.

Ten days into the state of emergency, Mother Nature continues to challenge first responders in the area with warmer temperatures and melting snow. As the snow melts and flood waters continue to rise, currents can pose a danger to crews, potentially sweeping them off of their feet.

The South Dakota National Guard and regional emergency crews are now all pitching in, providing clean drinking water and rescuing families and pets from their homes. On Saturday, the Pennington County Water Rescue Team was going door to door, rescuing people who could not make it through the water.

[We’re making sure we] do what we can to get through these high water times, then we’ll have to come back in and assess the damages,” said Governor Noem.

People across the Reservation continue to search for shelter and clean drinking water. They’re evacuating their homes for higher ground, taking with them the bare essentials.

“It’s hectic, it’s crazy, its a headache, a constant worry,” said Ashley Tobacco, a community member who has lived on the Pine Ridge Reservation for 33 years, “Especially with school kids and we’re both employed.”

Some have criticized the state for a delayed response to the floods, but Noem says her administration responded when called.

“We’re here, we’re showing up,” Noem said. “We can’t come onto tribal land until the request is made. As soon as they did, we were here.”

Noem also said that the state has been having conversations with the Oglala Sioux Tribe and has been working on coordinating resources.

And as first responders continue to provide relief, they say the reservation’s size and sparse population density poses a challenge to operations.

“It’s such a vast community covering such a large area of South Dakota,” said Cpt. Calen Maningas, a team leader with the South Dakota Taskforce One and the Pennington County Water Rescue Team. “Resources and infrastructure are so effected, it’s just us coming from Rapid and other agencies coming to help.”

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