PINE RIDGE, S.D. (KELO) — Now that the snow has stopped falling, National Guard troops and local crews are attempting to remove snow across South Dakota reservations.
Brigadier General Scott Petrik with the South Dakota National Guard told KELOLAND News Wednesday that troops were deployed to the Oglala Sioux Tribe and Rosebud Sioux Tribe last week. 46 soldiers and airmen have been assisting the efforts on the Pine Ridge Reservation.
“There’s a tremendous amount of snow down there, it’s drifting,” Petrik said. “There’s very high drifts and so we have loaders, dozers that are removing the drifts from the roads for passability.”
High winds and drifting have moved the snow around the roads so much that it’s taking extra effort to clear lanes.
“For the most part, there’s at least one lane of possibility on the majority of the roads down there. And for efforts, the way I understand it has shifted to widening that one lane to two lanes,” Petrik said.
According to Petrik, the snow drifts on the roads are as big as 20-feet meaning that the mission to clear the roads is an intense one.
“They’ll clear that and then they might go a half mile three quarters of a mile before they hit another drift. So, it’s not like there’s this you know, just blanket of snow there,” Petrik said.
Guard members have also been hauling firewood provided by the U.S. Forest Service from the Black Hills to the reservation, Petrik said.
Troops are doing similar road-clearing and wood-hauling work on the Rosebud Reservation, Petrik added.
“You know, we’re just happy to be able to help the residents of South Dakota,” Petrik said. “This is what the National Guard does, you know, we have two missions: We have a federal mission where we go overseas and help our combat commanders and our secondary mission is to help the residents of South Dakota, so this is what we do. This is who we are, and we’re glad to help.”
In addition to the National Guard, residents of Pine Ridge are working every day to provide supplies to those who need them.
Adam Grieco is a part of one of the crews helping in Pine Ridge.
Grieco first travelled to Pine Ridge in 2010 when he was bicycling from Virginia to California. As he travelled back, he decided to visit the Wounded Knee Memorial where he met Marvin White Pipe. The two built a friendship that stood the test of time until Marvin passed away. Still close to the family, White Pipe returned to Pine Ridge earlier this month before the winter storms hit.
“A lot of people stuck in the snow, they kind of know how bad it could get. This was a really bad storm, I heard, even for them,” Greico said.
Greico and other crew members meet at the CAP Office where residents call in their needs for food, firewood, propane and other supplies. Then, the crew travels to the different homes providing them with what they can.
“The crew goes around and chops down dead trees, cuts down dead trees and they split up for firewood and then they distribute them to older folks,” Grieco said.
Greico said that the roads are still snow-packed and icy in some areas which is how his truck got stuck outside of Pine Ridge.
“We were out toward Wound Knee, actually, delivering to an old dude who was kind of stranded out there. And I mean, he had this old beat-up Honda with no hood on it and he was stuck when we got there and we dug him out,” Greico said.
Tuesday, Greico said he and his partner were able to help eight people with firewood for their homes. The crew also delivers food packages and propane as well.
Greico said being in Pine Ridge during the storm has shown him how selfless the community is.
“There’s this sense of like, community that, you know, is amazing, amidst any negative things,” Greico said.