PIEDMONT - Lennie Bryant of Piedmont has no choice but to
drive her Kawasaki four-wheeler around town after Friday night's
Not only was her yellow Monte Carlo damaged by baseball-sized
hail stones and flooding, but her entire 100-foot plus long
driveway was turned into a 6-inch deep quagmire of mud and
Tree limbs, tires with the rims still in place and even dead
wood from the Ricco Fire in 2005 filled her driveway and made it
impassable even for her four-wheeler. Bryant is forced to trudge
back and forth through the mess.
Friday night's storm started with a 2 ½ hour downpour of
nickel to baseball-sized hail about 4:30 p.m. and then was followed
by persistent rainfall that brought debris down from the hills
overlooking the town.
Bryant believes the storm was worse because much of the
vegetation on the hillside that would have blocked the downhill
slide of debris was destroyed in the Ricco Fire.
The Meade County Sheriff's Office said 95 percent to all of
the homes in Piedmont suffered damage - whether it was from
flooding, winds or the hail.
More than 150 local residents, more than the actual population
of the newly-incorporated town, squeezed into the American Legion
post for a town meeting Saturday afternoon.
Kathie Grant, the Meade County Emergency Management director,
warned residents not to drink well water if they had flooding, but
to get a free testing kit from the Extension Office in
Bryant was outraged that the county expected residents to
travel to Sturgis, believing they should have brought the kits to
the meeting in Piedmont.
Grant told residents to take their storm debris to the Lantis
Fireworks parking lot for disposal.
The Red Cross was on scene to distribute tarps and other
covers for windows damaged by hail.
The Meade County Highway Department was still trying to clear
all the county roads of debris by using blades generally used for
snow removal. After Interstate 90 reopened Friday night, the blades
were also used to clear the interstate of debris.
Highway department officials suggested residents work together
to clear private driveways by finding other people in town who have
a backhoe or dirt moving equipment.
Grant said this storm was an opportunity for the residents of
South Dakota's newest city to show their neighborly side.
"You're still getting your sea legs, but Piedmont will band
together and help one another," she said. "It's time for neighbor
to help neighbor."
Phil Anderson, one of the leaders behind the city's recent
incorporation, said the residents don't have a choice but to pull
"Big government isn't going to come in and fix this," he said.
"We are going to have to pull together and do this."
Grant said the damage done to public property was not near the
$1 million level needed for FEMA to step in and offer assistance,
and the total damage to private property could not be used as a
determiner for federal aid.
The railroad tracks running parallel to I-90 on the opposite
side of the interstate from Piedmont were being repaired Saturday
afternoon because debris was left on the tracks and gravel from
underneath the tracks washed away in the flooding.
The sheriff's office reported 80 percent to 85 percent of
houses in the Wonderland Homes subdivision damaged, 70 percent to
75 percent of homes in the Stagebarn Canyon area damaged and 25
percent to 30 percent of homes in the Eastridge area damaged. They
also reported eight homes with flood damage and 20 to 25 with roof
damage in Summerset.
The streets of Piedmont were still covered in debris Saturday
afternoon, and the fences that lined S.D. Highway 79 into town were
covered with debris that had floated down and gotten stuck.
Some yards that had low points were filled with sewage from
neighboring homes and the trailer park and one man's basement wall
collapsed. The basketball court in the city park had become a large
Lanette Vote lives south of Piedmont and the gravel in her
driveway washed away with the storm while debris from a neighbor's
yard washed up into her backyard.
Vote said she spoke to her insurance agent, and they said
there was nothing they could do to help them replace the gravel in
their driveway and said she also expects little help with flood
"I live up on a hill," Vote said. "Who would think I would
need flood insurance?"
Vote's car was totaled from the hail damage, but luckily, she
was at her new home in Vale at the time of the storm. Now, her
worry is trying to sell her home near Piedmont with all the damage
that was done.
"It kind of screwed everything up," she said.
Her insurance agent estimates the damage at $30,000, not
including her car.
Bryant, who lives at the bottom of the foothills on the
western edge of Piedmont, believes her damage is worse because most
of the debris washed down from the hillside and much of it didn't
make it past her driveway.
The debris in her driveway gathered where it did because of a
neighbor's hedge line that blocked more debris from flowing
Bryant watched what she called a "raging river" flow through
her yard and said the hail stones crashed into the flood waters and
splashed water five or six feet into the air.
From inside, she noticed her car was beginning to take in
water and hail stones, so she put on a helmet and with her son,
they ran out and covered what used to be the back window of the car
with a blanket. The hail stones dropping on her head almost broke
the visor off the helmet.
She said the waters racing down the hill with debris pushed
over a metal fence and almost carried away her riding lawnmower.
She said simply looking at the debris in her driveway and lawn can
be too much emotionally.
"I just want to close all the blinds because I don't even want
to look at it," she said.
Bryant said she is afraid to start cleaning up the 6-inch deep
debris from her driveway until after her insurance agent has seen
it. Also, she doesn't know where to start.
"This ain't a rake and shovel kind of thing," she said.
She has tried to find ways to get her life back to normal, but
said something as simple as getting a rental car has been
complicated because of the number of people needing
"They have me on a waiting list," she said. "My insurance
company said they got me a car reserved, but Enterprise doesn't
have anything available."
Bryant is a long-time resident of Piedmont and said this was
like nothing she has ever seen.
"I hope we don't see anything like this again for another 30
years," she said.