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South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, left, on Aug. 7, 2019, inspects damage in the small town of Burke after a severe storm blew through the area the previous day. Ryan Sheldon / Courtesy of the Governor's Office

Noem requests additional $11 million in federal disaster aid as severe weather continues into summer

PIERRE, S.D. — As harsh weather continues to bear down on South Dakota, Republican Gov. Kristi Noem is requesting the White House grant two additional presidential disaster declarations to cover a total $11 million in additional damage.

Noem's office announced the additional requests for federal assistance on Wednesday, Aug. 28, after President Donald Trump signed a $46 million disaster declaration in June to cover damage from two back-to-back winter storms and subsequent flooding in March and April. A separate disaster declaration was signed for flood damages on the Pine Ridge Indian reservation.

Since this spring's storms, Jason Bauder from the state's Office of Emergency Management said South Dakotans have not caught a break in inclement weather: Many already damaged and flooded communities have gotten beaten down with more rain, hail, winds and tornadoes. And as late as May, areas in the Black Hills received significant snowfall.

Bauder said Wednesday's two requests, the first for $8 million in assessed damage and the second for $3 million, are for weather events that occurred between May 21 to June 7 and June 30 to July 21, respectively. Bauder said the Office of Emergency Management is not aware of any injuries or casualties that resulted from these two storm systems.

Though Wednesday's requests are for separate weather events from this spring's, Bauder said March and April's floods "set the stage for ground saturation," with every subsequent storm this summer "just compounding that issue."

Bauder said there are currently more than 200 Federal Emergency Management Agency workers stationed in South Dakota, working with local governments to fund redevelopment to public infrastructure, homes and businesses. It's a long process to approve the spending in the first place, then to rebuild; Bauder said it will "certainly" take years until South Dakota rebuilds itself from the spring storms alone.

Some areas have started with restoration, he said, but often at a cost to the local governments before federal and state dollars can reimburse them, Bauder said. In the end, 75% of the cost to rebuild will be covered by FEMA dollars, 10% by the state, and 15% by local governments.

As for this summer's storms, the state must wait until Trump signs off on Noem's two new disaster requests before it is eligible for federal assistance.

According to Wednesday's release, Noem's $8 million presidential disaster request would cover damages done in 25 counties and on two Native American reservations: Aurora, Bennett, Brule, Butte, Campbell, Custer, Deuel, Fall River, Gregory, Haakon, Hamlin, Hanson, Jackson, Jones, Lyman, Meade, Mellette, Pennington, Sanborn, Todd, Tripp, Turner, Union, Walworth and Ziebach Counties, plus the Cheyenne River and Rosebud reservations.

The second $3 million request is for damages in six counties and on two reservations: Butte, Gregory, Kingsbury, Lawrence, Meade and Tripp Counties, plus the Cheyenne River and Lower Brule reservations.

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