By Kevin Thranow
Tribal and county agencies wasted no time in responding to the myriad problems caused by the recent post-blizzard flooding. The Rosebud Sioux Tribe declared a flood disaster on March 18 and Todd County followed suit on March 20.
These declarations are the initial step in qualifying for federal funding through Public Assistance Grants. The next step is to document damage to public infrastructure that is not already federally funded and to create a Preliminary Disaster Assessment (PDA) to submit to the state of South Dakota. The governor has declared a State of Emergency for flooding but because flooding is on-going, the state has not yet requested a Presidential Disaster Declaration. At their regular meeting scheduled for this morning, the Todd County Commisioners will work on a list of damages to submit to the state for flood aid. In the meantime, homeowners are advised to contact their insurance carrier.
Tribal residents who have flood damage to their home are encouraged to contact Brian Dillon at the RST Administration Office at (605) 747-2381 so that the number of homes affected can be determined. That information will be shared with state emergency management officials as part of the assessment process. The state is required to assess flood impacts to private property and to request Individual Assistance through FEMA. There is no guarantee of federal assistance for individual homes. Homeowners should not expect federal disaster funding but instead should utilize insurance proceeds and voluntary agency assistance for recovery.
The Todd County Highway Department is currently concentrating on the primary gravel roads to get them passable, after which work will begin on secondary roads, with bus and mail routes as the main priority.
In addition to complete wash-outs of bridges, culverts, and entire roadways, most gravel roads in the area have damage and erosion at their edges, in many places reducing road width to single lane traffic. The erosion even on passable stretches has caused structural weakness in many areas, so be aware of the possibility that road surfaces may begin to crumble under a vehicle’s weight.
For those who can avoid using country gravel roads, the Highway Department is still advising no travel. And for a large percentage of area residents who rely on those roads to access homes, ranches, schools, and supplies, extreme caution is advised. Where there are road-blocks, it is unsafe to continue to travel on the road. Use an alternative route and don’t take a chance by driving around the barriers. Not all impassible sections are barricaded, so it is imperative to be constantly alert to approaching hazards.
Lakeview Road is a main north-south artery that is open to traffic, but there are still slow-moving areas, deep ruts, and many caution flags indicating problem spots. Local agencies are working long hours to restore the road damage caused by the storm, but it will take time and everyone is encouraged to be patient with the progress.