Governor seeks disaster declaration for snow and ice damage

Gov. Dennis Daugaard has requested a Presidential Disaster Declaration to help South Dakota recover from an April 8-10 ice and snow storm.

The request is for public assistance in seven counties, including the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Preliminary assessments show the storm caused extensive public health and safety hazards. Damages to public and private nonprofit property are estimated at more than $11.4 million as part of efforts to clear roads, restore electricity and remove debris caused by freezing rain that left heavy accumulations of ice on trees and power lines.

The damages occurred in Douglas, Hutchinson, Lincoln, McCook, Minnehaha, Turner and Shannon counties.

In a letter to President Barack Obama, Daugaard said significant personnel and equipment on the state, tribal, county and local levels has been dedicated to recovering from the severe storm. Shannon County and the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation had a record 26.5 inches of snow, and 115,000 South Dakotans were without power in the six southeastern counties that were hard hit by ice, the Governor wrote.

“The tree debris covered public roads and sidewalks, which caused public health and safety issues because emergency traffic was unable to drive down the roadways and citizens were unable to evacuate their homes until the tree debris was cleared from roads,” Daugaard wrote.

South Dakota is still recovering from devastating 2011 Missouri River flooding, as well as a record seven Presidential disaster declarations in 2010, the governor noted.

“The costs associated with this disaster, combined with the last eight declarations, increases the state’s financial stress if federal assistance is not provided,” Daugaard wrote.

The request by the governor for a major disaster declaration is a necessary step for federal disaster funds to be made available to South Dakota. If the president grants the declaration, up to 75 percent of eligible costs could be reimbursed by the federal government. The governor’s request does not guarantee federal funding will be made available to South Dakota.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency participated last week in the preliminary damage assessments.

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