Recent Press Releases

Washington, D.C. —  With the state of South Dakota's preliminary damage assessment from the severe winter storm that occurred November 5-7, 2008, conducted in conjunction with FEMA completed, U.S. Senators Tim Johnson (D-SD) and John Thune (R-SD) and U.S. Representative Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-SD) today called upon President George W. Bush to declare a significant portion of western South Dakota a major disaster area and asked the President to instruct federal agencies to expedite the delivery of all forms of federal disaster assistance.

"True to form, winter in South Dakota has already brought its share of severe weather, and the storm in early November was devastating for many who were in its path," said Johnson. "I'm pleased to join with Senator Thune and Congresswoman Herseth Sandlin to remind the President how important it is that FEMA help to share some of the burden of recovery."

"The severe winter storm that impacted much of South Dakota last month shut down large portions of our state for nearly two days, however, the damage that the storm inflicted left some residents without power for over two weeks," said Thune. "This level of damage has a significant impact on communities and the disbursement of resources necessary to recover from this major disaster has strained state and local government budgets. Hundreds of residents, National Guard, South Dakota Highway Patrol officers, Civil Air Patrol, first responders, and local leaders worked to ensure the safety of South Dakota residents. This storm had a great impact on our state, including the Cheyenne River, Pine Ridge, Rosebud, and Standing Rock Indian Reservations, and I am hopeful that President Bush will approve the Governor's request for assistance."

"When severe winter weather hit South Dakota in early November, our state's first responders, community leaders and industry officials demonstrated tremendous courage and resourcefulness while working to keep citizens safe and restore communities to working order," said Herseth Sandlin. "However, this storm drew heavily on state and local resources and with the majority of the winter season ahead of us, federal assistance is needed to ensure that communities can adequately respond in the event of another storm of this magnitude. In light of the extent of the damage and potential for future need, I'm hopeful the President will be receptive to the Governor's request for a disaster declaration for portions of South Dakota."

Full Letter to the President follows:

December 5, 2008

The Honorable George W. Bush
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Bush:
As members of the South Dakota congressional delegation, we write to express our full support of Governor M. Michael Rounds' request for a presidential disaster declaration covering portions of our state. This declaration would greatly assist South Dakota's recovery from a severe winter storm that occurred on November 5 through November 7, 2008.

This storm was accompanied by record snowfall, ice, and high winds, which, among other things, left thirteen counties and four Indian reservations with devastated power systems. Nearly 14,000 customers were left without power, some for over two weeks. Interstate 90 was closed over a vast stretch of the state for nearly two days. Rural electric cooperatives were forced to incur uninsured expenses, and unless federal assistance is provided, higher rates will result for customers who can ill afford them during these tough economic times. Due to impassable roads, it was necessary for the National Guard to transport dialysis patients in Blackhawk helicopters to the hospital on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

As Governor Rounds' disaster declaration request indicates, total public assistance damages for the thirteen counties are estimated to be at $4,937,743, for a statewide per capita impact of $6.54. Significant personnel and equipment available on the state, county, and local levels have been dedicated to recovering from the severe storm event. This severe winter storm event is of such severity and magnitude that effective response is beyond the capabilities of the state and the affected local governments, and supplemental federal assistance is necessary under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act.

In light of these considerations, we respectfully request that you declare a major disaster for relevant areas of our state and that you instruct federal agencies to expedite the delivery of all forms of federal disaster assistance for which South Dakota is eligible based upon that declaration. We would be pleased to offer any assistance that you may require in fulfilling this request.

Thank you very much for your consideration of this important matter. Please do not hesitate to contact any of us if we can provide you with additional information.


Tim Johnson John Thune Stephanie Herseth Sandlin