Heavy mud mires much of Reservation
President Shelly signs emergency declaration after recent winter snowstorms
WINDOW ROCK, Ariz.-Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly signed legislation March 4 declaring a disaster after recent heavy winter storms caused heavy mud across the Navajo Nation.
"We take this action to bring relief to rural areas where storms have caused severe mud conditions left by melting snow that have caused hardship to many," Shelly said. "Our Department of Emergency Management is working overtime to ensure everything is documented properly.
Resolution No. CE-15-03-04 passed by a vote of 3-0 by the Navajo Nation Commission on Emergency Management (NNCEM) earlier in the day.
The commission declared a state of emergency after heavy snow, high winds, excessive rains, flooding, power outages and muddy conditions were reported to have severely impacted tribal members living in remote locations.
The declaration stated, "The emergencies of the Navajo Nation are to be addressed in a manner to provide the necessary resources required to the declared State of Emergency. This includes, but not limited to, resources of personnel, equipment, supplies, other funding and other resources as may be required to protect the health, safety and welfare of the citizens of the Navajo Nation."
Ten chapters got the ball rolling.
Chilchinbeto, Coalmine Canyon, Cove, Crystal, Hard Rock, LeChee, Oljato, Pinon, Sanostee, Sheep Springs, declared emergencies and passed resolutions for their respective communities.
Emergency declarations begin at the chapter level when members pass a resolution to declare an emergency. The resolutions are forwarded to the NNCEM, which will take action on whether or not to declare an emergency. Finally, Shelly signs the emergency declaration into action.
NNDEM received incident reports from 42 chapters that were affected by the storm. Many cited excessive mud and snow as issues that needed to be addressed. Others cited the need for food, water, firewood and accessibility through muddy roads for diabetic patients requiring dialysis treatment.
"The Emergency Operations Center is operational at the Navajo Transportation Complex," said Rose Whitehair, director of NNDEM.
She encouraged chapters to provide names, locations and contact phone numbers for stranded individuals in need of assistance. Other members from her department were out at the chapters conducting assessments.
Sanostee Chapter is providing shelter for those displaced by the weather. They are the only overnight shelter. Other resources can be accessed at Cove Chapter and Red Valley Chapter. NNDEM is coordinating with the Red Cross to provide supplies.
She said her team has been tracking events ranging from excessive mud, freezing conditions, power outages and safety checks on diabetic patients unable to navigate impassable roads.
Tribal members requesting mud removal for residential roads are encouraged to wait for the weather to dry up the muddy conditions. It is unsafe for heavy equipment to clear the roads, as they will only get stuck in the mud.