BILLINGS — Authorities are shifting their attention to securing access to heat and bracing for possible flooding as residents of the Northern Cheyenne Reservation recover from last month’s relentless snowstorms.
Residents on the reservation in southeast Montana are still digging out and connecting to services after back-to-back storms deposited feet of snow in some areas, the Billings Gazette reported .
The Northern Cheyenne Disaster and Emergency Services department received more than 800 calls for service in the past two weeks, said department Director Janis Spear.
“I don’t even know how to describe it; it was almost like a panic — people calling and calling and calling,” Spear said. “We were having to get ambulances unstuck so they could get to patients’ homes.”
Most homes regained access to services as of Wednesday, so the department moved to reconnect residents with access to firewood and propane, Spears said. Workers were still clearing roads and attempting to reach residents who have been snowed in for days.
“People aren’t able to get out to where they generally go to harvest their wood. So now, because of the amount of snow that fell, they can’t just get a shovel or a pickup plow to open the road,” Spears said. “It’s going to take some coordination to get these roads open to the backcountry so people can get their wood.”
Republican Gov. Steve Bullock on Tuesday declared a state of emergency for three reservations and two Montana counties. For the Northern Cheyenne Reservation, the declaration could streamline access to state funding and resources.
The state is still working to coordinate with the tribe on what is immediately needed, said Charlie Hanson, the eastern district field officer for Montana Disaster and Emergency Services.
Spear said the department has begun planning for flooding, a possible result of the deep snow.
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