Episcopal Relief & Development Responds to Ice Storm in the Dakotas

February 11, 2010

On January 20, the Episcopal Dioceses of North and South Dakota were affected by a devastating ice storm and subsequent blizzard that left more than 14,000 people without power or access to clean water. In the wake of this disaster, Episcopal Relief & Development has responded to requests for emergency aid from the Dioceses of North and South Dakota.

The already shaky infrastructure of indigenous communities living on the Cheyenne River and Standing Rock Reservations was further crippled by the storm. The severe weather downed over 3,000 power poles. Resulting power outages led to the loss of perishable food items and to equipment malfunctions at the local water treatment facilities, contaminating the region’s supply of drinking water. Freezing temperatures caused significant damage to most families’ furnaces and the pipes in many residences froze and burst. It is estimated that most homes will sustain $2,000 to $5,000 in damages.

The Cheyenne River Reservation in South Dakota, which is home to 14 Episcopal congregations, has declared a state of emergency. On both reservations, emergency shelters have been created in schools, community centers and churches to accommodate those left living without heat and hot water. People are sharing the scarce resources available to them.

Virginia Traverfie, Senior Warden of Emmanuel Church in Whitehorse, described to Episcopal News Service how the church mobilized to help people: “The church is about a mile from us. For people who didn’t have food, we took what we had there and together with coffee, sugar, whatever we had, we passed it out to the community here.” She continued by saying that leaders had set up shelter for those still without power. “There are power lines laying everywhere. It hit the whole reservation really bad.”

Although the storm has passed, reports indicate that some areas could be without power for up to a month while services are restored. With no heat, electricity or running water, these communities continue to face temperatures well below freezing. They are bracing for the possibility that this winter’s worst storms are yet to come. The most severe winter weather usually does not hit this area until March or April.

In North Dakota, the diocese will use emergency funds to provide critical relief in the form of lodging and food. Once immediate needs have been met, they will begin restoration work on area residences damaged by the storm. The Diocese of South Dakota will employ emergency funds to provide food, mend broken pipes, restore access to clean water and supply propane for heating homes.

“Although much of the world’s focus is on the problems in Haiti, it is crucial that we do not forget those in need here at home,” said Abagail Nelson, Episcopal Relief & Development’s Senior Vice President for Programs. “Episcopal Relief & Development is committed to supporting the communities of the Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Reservations as they recover from these storms and get back to life as normal.”

To support Episcopal Relief & Development’s work, please visit www.episcopalrelief.org or call 1-800-334-7626, ext. 5129. Gifts can be mailed to Episcopal Relief & Development, PO Box 7058, Merrifield, VA 22116-7058.

Episcopal Relief & Development is the international relief and development agency of the Episcopal Church of the United States and an independent 501(c)(3) organization. The agency takes its mandate from Jesus’ words found in Matthew 25. Its programs work towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Together with the worldwide Church and ecumenical partners, Episcopal Relief & Development strengthens communities today to meet tomorrow’s challenges. We rebuild after disasters and empower people by offering lasting solutions that fight poverty, hunger and disease, including HIV/AIDS and malaria.