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PIEDMONT - Lennie Bryant of Piedmont has no choice but to drive her Kawasaki four-wheeler around town after Friday night's storm.
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 debris.
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.
And she is not alone.
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 Sturgis.
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 together.
"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 sewage pool.
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 damage.
"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 through.
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 assistance.
"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.

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