On the night of Friday, July 27, a hail storm producing baseball-sized hail hit the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation leaving some 500 homes “in shambles,” reported KEVN-TV Black Hills FOX the day following the devasting storm.
Since that day, Running Strong for American Indian Youth® with our field office, Tipi Waste, located on the reservation and staffed by three Oglala Lakota tribal members, have been working tirelessly to repair as many houses as possible since the devastating storm.
While Running Strong, working in partnership with a handful of other non-governmental agencies, has been able to replace shattered windows and vinyl siding stripped from the exterior of many of the damaged homes, there is still more work to do.
In October, KOTA-TV reported that despite our best efforts there are still many homes in need of repair, and to make the situation worse “The damage done by the hailstorm over summer was not widespread enough for FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) to consider it a federal disaster” which left the work of rebuilding to volunteer groups and nonprofit organizations such as Running Strong to do the job.
Today, winter has arrived at Pine Ridge with low-temperatures in the single digits predicted in the coming days – and that doesn’t include the wind chill factor which could make the temperature feel below zero.
But that has not stopped Running Strong housing coordinator Ken Lone Elk from continuing the job he started.
Running Strong, represented by Ken, has taken the lead in repairing homes this month in the farthest reaches of the reservation including the Wakpamni District.
In his most recent report on November 19, Ken stated that in recent weeks the crews have been working on 29 of the 61 mobile homes which suffered significant damage in the small community of Belt Village.
By now, we expect that they are over the 50 percent mark in Belt Village, meaning there are more than 30 families whose homes are much better prepared to ward off the frigid winds blowing through the Great Plains.
But there are the others who are still using plywood, or worse – plastic sheeting, in a futile attempt to substitute for storm windows, and walls without siding allowing the wind to blow through their homes virtually unabated.
“We are trying to close up as many as we can before the snow hits,” Ken told us. “We have been very fortunate with the weather so far. I hope it stays this way until the end of the month.”
We are hoping and praying along with Ken for as good as weather that can be expected there this time of year – despite the fact that snow is predicted on the reservation December 1 –3, and the single-digit lows to follow.