Posted by The Guardians on Wednesday, March 13, 2019
A photo shared on social media by The Guardians shows the large amount of snowfall on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.

Oglala Sioux Tribe orders lockdown after winter storm slams the reservation

A powerful winter storm this week has stranded many emergency and medical personnel on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, forcing tribal leaders to order non-essential traffic to stay off of the roads.

Oglala Sioux Tribal President Julian Bear Runner said the storm, which began Wednesday morning, has prevented many law enforcement officers and hospital staff from leaving their homes. The tribe is even struggling to free many of its snow plows, which have become trapped under several inches of snow.

“I had everybody going on all night,” he said. “Me and my staff slept in my office and manned the phone lines.”

On Wednesday, Bear Runner ordered a lockdown of the reservation, meaning non-essential traffic is prohibited on the roads and tribal police can detain anyone caught violating the order.

President Bear Runner has issued a tribal LOCKDOWN as of 6pm tonight.

Posted by Julian Bear Runner for Oglala Nation President on Wednesday, March 13, 2019
President Julian Bear Runner of the Oglala Sioux Tribe ordered a lockdown on the Pine Ridge Reservation in response to a strong winter storm. He also granted administrative leave for tribal employees on March 14, 2019.

Snowfall totals weren’t available Thursday morning, though up to 19 inches of snow had been forecast to fall on the Pine Ridge area.

“I can tell you that it has varied a lot,” said Katie Pojorlie, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Rapid City, South Dakota. “It’s been hard to measure because of the wind.”

She said a strong low-pressure system from southern California combined with a low-pressure system from the Pacific Northwest to bring the storm to the Great Plains. Some areas saw 60-70 mph winds and flooding.

Pojorlie said she didn’t expect any more significant snowfall in the Pine Ridge area, though winds of 30 mph and gusts of 40 mph were still expected to cause blizzard-like conditions in some areas.

Guardian Jess Kills Back and Greg White Face are starting to dig out evergreen.. Come on Evergreen community get out there and help them! Put that controller and tablet down..

Posted by The Guardians on Thursday, March 14, 2019

Conditions were expected to improve starting Friday, though flooding could then become a concern as snow begins to melt, Pojorlie said.

Bear Runner said emergency services on the reservation are trying to prioritize citizens’ needs, focusing on those with medical conditions, such as dialysis patients, and freeing medical and law enforcement personnel trapped by the storm.

“We will work with elders and then the general public after that,” he said.

He said emergency workers had to rescue several people trapped by severe snowfall. About 12 people were being housed at Billy Mills Hall in Pine Ridge, which the tribe is using as an emergency shelter.

He said Community Action Program offices in each of the tribe’s nine districts also will serve as emergency shelters if needed. He said no power outages have been reported, though significant flooding was reported in several areas on the reservation.

Eileen Janis, a community activist from Pine Ridge, said she knew of at least three hospital workers, including a nurse and a cook, who were trapped in their homes. She said the heavy, wet snow is difficult to walk through.

“It just tires your legs down,” she said.

A community volunteer organization on the reservation known as the Guardians, which rescues stranded drivers, has been forced to stay off the roads after one of its member’s vehicles was damaged while he was trying to help a stranded driver on Wednesday, Janis said.

She said one man had to be rescued from a creek and a woman who uses oxygen had to be rescued from her mobile home. Several homes near Pine Ridge had to be evacuated because of flooding, she said.

She said it was difficult to see more than a block because of the blowing snow.

“That wind, it makes your house moan,” she said. “There’s so much snow. There’s nowhere to put it anymore.”

Holding down the Emergency Management’s “Command Post” in the President’s Office during this Blizznado. I made a...

Posted by Candi Brings Plenty on Thursday, March 14, 2019
'She missed her dialysis. It made me cry': An employee of the Oglala Sioux Tribe shares how the winter storm has impacted her family on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.

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