South Dakota National Guard, Businesses Help Flood Victims on Pine Ridge and Across Midwest

Families across the reservation have been left stranded in their homes, the roads and driveways impassable or homes surrounded by water.

by Candy DenOuden, Rapid City Journal, S.D. / March 31, 2019
This Wednesday, March 20, 2019 aerial photo shows flooding near the Platte River in in Plattsmouth, Neb., south of Omaha. The National Weather Service is warning that flooding in parts of South Dakota and northern Iowa could soon reach historic levels. A Weather Service hydrologist says "major and perhaps historic" flooding is possible later this month at some spots on the Big Sioux and James rivers. The worst of the flooding so far has been in Nebraska, southwestern Iowa and northwestern Missouri. AP

(TNS) - As spring flooding continued to wreak havoc across the Midwest, water isn't the only thing pouring in.

Soon after the South Dakota Army National Guard spent three days delivering water on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in southwestern South Dakota, AT&T announced a $10,000 donation toward relief efforts there. Wells Fargo also announced a $325,000 donation to the American Red Cross to help with flood relief across the region.

Families across the reservation have been left stranded in their homes, the roads and driveways impassable or homes surrounded by water. The Oglala Sioux Tribe’s emergency management team, along with help from volunteers and the Rapid City Fire Department, conducted swift water evacuations and delivered food and supplies to stranded families.

Nonprofits like Salvation Army and American Red Cross mobilized to help, and private citizens coordinated efforts to help friends and neighbors, some even delivering supplies by boat or horseback to stranded residents.

When flooding damaged a major waterline and left more than 8,000 residents on the reservation without water, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem announced on March 22 she was sending 13 members of the South Dakota Army National Guard to help deliver drinkable water.

According to a news release from the South Dakota National Guard, within 24 hours, soldiers from the Watertown-based Company A, 139th Brigade Support Battalion, were providing water to people in Red Shirt, Manderson, Porcupine, Evergreen and Wounded Knee.

By day two, the communities of Kyle and Sharps Corner also needed water.

The soldiers deployed with five vehicles equipped with compatible water tank racks, or "hippos," which each can distribute up to 2,000 gallons of potable water. They distributed water from a central location in each community until the waterline was fixed on the third day. In those three days, soldiers distributed nearly 9,500 gallons of water, according to the release.

"A lot of the people are just so happy the Guard came to help us out with our water situation," Jim Miller, of Porcupine, said in the release. "A lot of the people here can't use their bathrooms, can't shower. Especially for our elderly and people who live off road. We are really grateful for the Guard coming and doing their part."

Residents took in bottles, containers, coolers — even water tanks. Lt. Col. Lew Weber, a South Dakota Army National Guard support operations officer, said soldiers filled up to 200-gallon tanks for people.

He said many people picked up water for others who couldn't make it to the distribution points.

"We've seen neighbors helping neighbors, families helping families — everyone is coming together," said Weber, of Rapid City. "We've seen people come here and take water out to people who can't get out of their homes themselves."

"The emergency management people here are doing a fantastic job and they have been great to work with. We are just happy we can be an enabler to help them complete their mission," he said.

Soldiers said the community appreciated the help, and were quick to collaborate.

"The community has been overwhelming with thank yous, 'we're glad you're here, and keep up the good work,'" Spc. Tracy Lennick, 139th water distribution specialist, of Rapid City. "It feels great to be down here. A remote location such as this is why I believe the Guard definitely has its place. They absolutely needed us. They called, we came."

Private businesses want to help, too.

AT&T said Thursday in a news release its $10,000 donation would go to the Salvation Army, Western Division to aid in its flooding and disaster relief efforts on the reservation.

The company is also collecting donations of cleaning supplies for flood relief and restoration. Donations can be dropped at its locations in Rapid City (1325 Eglin St., Suite 200) or Spearfish (935 E. Colorado Blvd.) until April 3.

Donated items, along with bottled water and food purchased by AT&T, will be delivered to the reservation.

Salvation Army, Western Division officers, staff and volunteers have been springing into action this week across the division’s three-state geographical area, working alongside first responders and authorities to provide relief to victims of the widespread flooding in the region. To support flood relief efforts in this area, donate now.

To donate to the Salvation Army's flood relief efforts, visit bit.ly/2JQl2l0.

On Tuesday, Wells Fargo announced in a news release it would donate $325,000 to the American Red Cross, and another $75,000 will be distributed to local nonprofits to help with recovery efforts.

The company also said customers hurt by flooding can contact Wells Fargo Customer Support at the number on their credit cards, debit cards or statements to discuss their options, or visit their nearest Wells Fargo branch.

To support the American Red Cross relief efforts for Midwest tornadoes and floods, Wells Fargo customers may donate through Wells Fargo ATMs in Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin through April 3. They can also donate any available Go Far Rewards through April 4.

There is no fee for ATM donations, and 100 percent of contributions will be sent to the American Red Cross.

Contact Candy DenOuden at candy.denouden@rapidcityjournal.com

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