Road and emergency crews on the sprawling Pine Ridge Indian Reservation are hustling to reach isolated tribal members with pressing medical needs in the wake of powerful spring snowstorm that left many stranded.
"Our main priorities are dialysis patients and others with medical needs," Toni Red Cloud, public relations director to Oglala Sioux Tribe President Bryan Brewer, said Wednesday. "We've got a list of those people, so we're plowing them out, getting to them."
Red Cloud said deep snowdrifts left roads to most rural communities impassible. Crews are responding as quickly as they can with a limited number of snowplows, she said.
"We've had so much snow, and there's not enough plows or manpower," Red Cloud said. "We've got the main roads cleared, but we've got a lot of 4-foot to 5-foot drifts in other areas."
Brewer was in Minnesota meeting with another tribe when the storm hit. He hadn't been able to return as of Wednesday afternoon.
Red Cloud said an emergency management team was responding to the most serious needs of tribal members. And tribal officials were taking telephone calls for help from people in the country.
Those included a family with an ill 18-month-old child who couldn't get out and couldn't be reached on Tuesday.
"I took the call last night, and we managed to get a doctor on the line to help them," Red Cloud said.
Warmer weather will help clear blocked roads but also create another worry.
"If it gets up to 55 degrees Friday and Saturday, we're going to have some flooding," Red Cloud said. "We're hoping for a slow melt."