PIERRE, S.D. – Gov. Dennis Daugaard has requested a Presidential Disaster Declaration to help South Dakota recover from a late-May weather pattern that produced severe thunderstorms, a tornado and flooding.
The request is for public assistance in five counties, including part of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Preliminary assessments show that the series of storms from May 24 through May 31 brought heavy rainfall and flash flooding that caused damages to public property estimated at more than $1.4 million.
Rushing water from the rainfall created an immediate public health and safety threat with some roads, bridges and culverts washed out and debris covering other roadways in four counties. A tornado of EF-1 magnitude that struck the small Pine Ridge Indian Reservation community of Allen in Bennett County destroyed three tribal homes, damaged seven others and damaged a church that serves as the epicenter of community functions in the tribal village. The damage occurred in Lincoln, Union, Lawrence, Corson and Bennett counties.
In a letter to President Barack Obama, Gov. Daugaard said Lincoln County was especially hard hit, with more than 10 inches of rain over two days in Harrisburg. “Streets were flooded, and the elementary school had water inundating the hallways and gymnasium,’’ Gov. Daugaard said. He also reminded the President that South Dakota is still recovering from a record seven presidentially declared disasters in 2010 and the devastating 2011 Missouri River flooding, as well as an April, 2013, ice and snow storm that resulted in a presidential disaster declaration.
The Standing Rock Indian Reservation, which encompasses counties on both sides of the North Dakota-South Dakota border, requested its own presidential disaster declaration on June 18 for damages caused by the late-May storm system. About $800,000 of the estimated $1.2 million in damages occurred on reservation land on the South Dakota side of the state border.
“The state did not include their damage in this request,’’ the Governor said. “However, it should be recognized that both this disaster request and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s request should be viewed together to understand the full impact to the entire state.’’
The request is a necessary step for federal disaster funds to be made available to South Dakota. If the President grants the declaration, up to 75 percent of eligible costs could be reimbursed by the federal government. The Governor’s request does not guarantee federal funding will be made available to South Dakota. The Federal Emergency Management Agency participated earlier this week in the preliminary damage assessments.
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