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Sun Jan 19, 2020, 02:48 PM

Reservations brace for winter storms amid slow recovery

Stephen Groves, Associated Press
Updated 10:06 am CST, Saturday, January 18, 2020

PINE RIDGE, S.D. (AP) — Snow blanketed the living room of Erna Shepard’s home the morning after a storm on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

“I’m going to freeze,” she said.

It’s been 10 months since the “bomb cyclone” that dumped the snow and rain that Shepard, 48, says caused the roof of her mobile home to cave in. While she’s managed to find a temporary home with her sister, like many people living in several Native American communities in South Dakota, she has struggled to recover from a storm and flooding that swelled rivers, swallowed roads and stranded thousands of people.

. . .

Wilson said the roads department is working with a small budget and an undersized staff while trying to repair gaps in roads that he said “would swallow homes up.” People on Pine Ridge rely on thousands of miles of dirt roads to access medical care, school, and essentials like food and fuel, and tribal leaders say a major upgrade is needed.

Last year, the tribe used horses, snowmobiles and a helicopter to reach stranded residents. He’s prepared to do the same this year.

As for Shepard, in the last nine months, her life has unraveled. She sent a teenage son to live with another relative. Her 22-year-old son had no place to live and killed himself in September, she said.


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