RAPID CITY, S.D. — As floodwaters sweep across the Midwest, the Cheyenne River Sioux tribe is the latest to declare a state of emergency as the nearby Moreau River continues to rise.
In a Wednesday, March 27, news release, Chairman Harold Frasier urged residents of the reservation in north-central South Dakota to evacuate their homes before floodwaters rise further.
“The river has never been this high and it is only rising, so take the opportunity to evacuate now,” he said. “You are placing not just your life but the lives of those who will try to rescue you at risk.”
The tribe has issued a voluntary evacuation request of its residents. Evacuations are not yet mandatory.
According to Wednesday’s release, the Moreau River set a flood stage record at 27.7 feet over the weekend. It is expected to rise more still, cresting at a predicted 30 feet by Friday.
Kristin Wileman, spokesperson for Republican Gov. Kristi Noem, said in a Wednesday emailed statement that Noem visited the reservation earlier this week to assess the damage and meet with tribal leadership.
“The governor and her team continue to work closely with tribal leadership to coordinate help and resources for their communities,” Wileman said. “The emergency declaration the governor signed earlier this month covers all counties if needed.”
Wileman said the State Emergency Operations Center has sent a swift water response team and an Army Corps of Engineers sandbagging machine to Cheyenne River, at the request of the tribe.
The Cheyenne River reservation is not the only one of South Dakota’s nine tribes experiencing debilitating flooding.
Residents of the Pine Ridge reservation, home of the Oglala Sioux tribe located in southwest South Dakota, have been displaced from or stranded in their homes for nearly two weeks after the sudden melting of record snowfall. The governor’s office estimated that 8,000 residents in Oglala Lakota County were left without water when a rural water service pipe was washed out.
Noem last week dispatched South Dakota National Guard soldiers and four 2,500-gallon water tanks to provide drinking water for Pine Ridge residents. On Wednesday, Wileman said the Department of Transportation brought its water pump to the reservation to pump water off some of its flooded roads.
The Rosebud Sioux tribe located in south-central South Dakota has also declared a state of emergency due to the weather. The Hidden Timber dam, located near Mission has reportedly broken, and county roads on the reservation have been declared unsafe for travel.