Nature has a way of humbling us, of stepping into our lives with previously unthought power and reminding us what truly matters. That’s how I felt these past two days while surveying storm damage across much of South Dakota.
But the power of the storm was not the only thing that I found humbling. I found it in the families in Castlewood who had lost their homes, but were still grateful to be safe, alive, and together. I found it in the first responders in communities across our state who maintained a cheerful, can-do attitude despite the long road ahead. And I found it in our community leaders who demonstrated the necessary resolve to get our cities and towns back on the right track.
Salem had to evacuate their nursing home. But first, staff moved their residents into an internal room. They had latched the doors, but literally had to hold them shut due to the wind. On the other side of the door, the roof had been completely torn off. That’s courage – that’s going above and beyond.
In Castlewood, I spent time talking to a woman wearing a “small town proud” shirt. She just happened to be wearing it when the storm hit. But it fit. It demonstrated exactly how I felt in that moment, surrounded by folks I had grown up with, who were facing struggles ahead, but were proud to be from small town South Dakota.
In Madison, first responders reflected on the fact that it wasn’t that long ago, in 2019, when we had all been together during another crisis, the flooding that hit that town. They had smiles on their faces last night because they knew from that experience that we could get through this.
I’m proud of South Dakota. I’m proud of the small towns who are weathering this together, just like they weather everything. I’m proud of our cities who were ready and responded swiftly. I’m proud of our farmers, who had a tough go of it, too. They know that the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away — that the weather can make their living or wreck it. And they keep on plowing, sowing, and reaping, nonetheless.
We will continue to get information out to our people in the coming days. We are getting emergency resources to communities, deploying the National Guard when necessary, and working with local and federal emergency response to help folks out. There is more work to do — together we will get it done.
In the meantime, help your neighbors. Check on them if it’s safe to do so. And pray for your fellow South Dakotans. Pray for the families in so many communities who will have to spend time away from their homes while we rebuild; for the towns where the lights are still out; for the workers helping to get the lights back on and for the emergency responders helping to keep everyone safe in the process.
We are South Dakota strong. And we will prove it, once again, by getting through this.