Snow blanketed the living room of Erna Shepard’s home the morning after a storm on the
“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
“The harsh thing about these climate-related events is that when they happen to these communities, we don’t recover really,” said
It’s a compounding problem: Year after year, storms batter roads and homes, but federal recovery funding is restricted to damage from a single disaster and a specific timeframe. Unable to prove that the damage they’ve experienced was caused by just one event, residents and officials are left without the help they need to fix their homes and roads.
Then another storm comes.
“Once the winds start howling, my wife worries again,” said
Before the March storm, Red Cloud, 60, ran workshops on his property on solar panel and wind turbine installation. But that halted after flooding damaged his workshop and he had to focus on repairing their trailer home.
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
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.
“It would have been all right if he had a place to stay,” she said.
She tried to make her mobile home livable, covering the doors and windows with blankets to keep out the cold. Then thieves broke in and stole her wood-burning stove.
She applied for assistance from
Applicants must show that the damage to their homes came during the dates of the disaster and provide documents showing they live there.
The rate of approval for households on tribal land was much lower for this storm than in other parts of the state. In Oglala Lakota County, which lies on the
Recovery workers said many homes on
“It was very frustrating for the people because even though some of the damages were from the hail storm, the snow and flooding also caused damage as well,”
“It was really disheartening to see some of these people and the condition they’re in,” Champagne said. “When you’re dealing with tribal lands, it’s a whole different world here.”