EAGLE BUTTE, S.D. — Parts of a sprawling South Dakota reservation still were without water and electricity Monday, nearly two weeks after winter storms toppled thousands of power lines, caused water pipes to freeze and burst, and forced more than a dozen residents on kidney dialysis to seek treatment at another reservation.
A fierce ice storm hit the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation overnight Jan. 20, coating roads and electrical lines and forcing shops and schools to close. Before residents could recover, a blizzard tore through the Dakotas, bringing a few inches of snow and wind gusts up to 50 mph.
Several shelters and distribution centers were set up around the reservation, and an 8 p.m. curfew was imposed after some looting took place last week. At the height of the outages, about 14,000 people in the region were without water — most of them on the impoverished reservation that covers an area larger than Rhode Island and Delaware combined.
Tribal Chairman Joseph Brings Plenty said Monday that no deaths had been reported, though a few people reported becoming ill because of fumes from gaspowered heaters.
“I thank the Creator for that, because we could have had quite a few people perish in this,” he said.
Seventeen kidney dialysis patients from the reservation were moved to a hotel at the Prairie Winds Casino in southwest South Dakota, said Rick Shangreaux, the casino’s acting general manager. Indian Health Services nurses are monitoring the patients, who will get treatment at a facility on the Pine Ridge Reservation in southwest South Dakota.
By Monday, outages were no longer considered a crisis, but the tribe was still in an “immediate response” mode, tribal spokeswoman Natalie Stites said.
The South Dakota National Guard helped bring in generators supplied by the state during the crisis. The tribe distributed fuels such as propane, delivered donated bottled water and sent bulk water tanks around the reservation. Stites said the water deliveries were enough to meet everyone’s needs.