Oglala Sioux tribal officials on October 8 were preparing to declare a state of emergency in the wake of a blizzard that dumped an unseasonable two to three feet of snow, swept the Pine Ridge Reservation with record winds and killed thousands of cattle.
“With an average chance of 7 percent that there will be snow on the ground in October with an average depth of 1.1 inches, this storm was no ordinary storm,” said the Oglala Sioux Tribe in a statement on its website. “Bringing down century-old trees and building structures throughout the reservation, this storm has definitely been a ‘Storm of the Century.’ ”
U.S. Interstate-90 was closed down for part of the weekend in the state. Thousands lost power, and some ranchers reported losing 20 to 50 percent of their livestock. When it all melted on Sunday October 6, it had nowhere to go, and plowed roads in the Black Hills became soggy messes of mud and standing water, the Associated Press reported.
By Tuesday the reservation was almost free of the drifts that clogged roads over the weekend after parts of South Dakota received as much as four to five feet of snow. But the aftermath was still far from over, and tribal officials met to develop a cleanup plan.
The storm, born of a powerful cold front, also spawned nearly 20 tornadoes as well as hail and heavy rain in Nebraska, Iowa and South Dakota, the Associated Press said. Northeast Nebraska saw a triple-fatality traffic accident that occurred because of the snow, the AP said. Several were injured in the tornadoes, and several buildings were damaged or decimated. Winds gusted up to 70 miles per hour in the Black Hills.
The snowfall broke records in Rapid City for both the month of October and the day it fell, with 19 inches on Saturday October 5 surpassing the 94-year-old one-day record for the month by nearly nine inches, the AP said. The previous month-long October record had been in 1919, when 15.1 inches fell as opposed to the 23.1 that inundated Rapid City on Saturday. Three feet or more fell on Pine Ridge, according to one snow spotter quoted by the tribe.
By late Tuesday about 85 percent of the roads had been cleared and reopened on the Pine Ridge Reservation, Oglala Sioux Tribe Transportation Department spokesman Dave Kelly told the Rapid City Journal. Tribal officials were meeting to determine how best to remove thousands of downed trees and restore essential services to those with medical issues such as the need for dialysis.