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Tribal nations reckon with winter storm in Oklahoma

choctawnation_water2021.jpg
Charles Clark / Choctaw Nation
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The Choctaw Nation delivered the water to communities across southeastern Oklahoma during the February 2021 winter storm.

Updated: Feb. 3 at 1:16 p.m.

A number of tribal nations have decided to close their offices and are asking citizens to travel only if necessary as Oklahoma experiences its second day of cold, winter weather

The Choctaw Nation will close their tribal offices on Friday due to dangerous road conditions in southeast Oklahoma. All administrative offices, health clinics, wellness centers and child care centers will also be closed.

Muscogee Nation announced on Facebook that tribal government offices will be closed for the rest of the week.

Comanche Nation offices in Lawton are also closed and are asking citizens to check Facebook for updates.

Chickasaw Nation administrative offices are set to close Friday. The Child Development Centers in Ada and Ardmore, and all Chickasaw Nation preschools and head starts will also close.

Seminole Nation offices will also be closed, reopening on Monday, Feb. 7.

Cherokee Nation offices and health centers remain closed. However, W.W. Hastings Hospital remains fully open and operational.

More snow is expected across Oklahoma into the evening and overnight hours.


ORIGINAL POST

As winter weather arrives in Oklahoma and forecasters are predicting the coldest temperatures of the season, tribal nations say they are ready to respond with warming shelters, emergency road crews and police assistance.

Extended and extreme cold in February 2021 left many without power or heat for days and resulted in burst pipes. This year, officials say they’re trying to be better prepared.

Choctaw Nation has staged generators at tribal facilities and has emergency vehicles ready to deliver water for those living in remote areas. Frozen pipes and lack of power often mean inoperable well houses for people in rural areas.

Choctaw Nation officials are urging people in need of emergency assistance to contact the Office of Emergency Management Disaster Response hotline at 844-709-6301. Citizens can also call 800-349-7026, extension 7175, to hear of any possible health clinic closings.

Cherokee Nation Immersion school will go virtual between Wednesday and Friday. Sequoyah High School will have a half day on Wednesday and will be virtual on Thursday and Friday.

Cherokee Nation is moving all COVID-19 testing at the Cherokee Nation Health Center to curbside Wednesday to Friday as well. Cherokee Nation officials are urging officials to check the tribal nation's Facebook and Twitter accounts for updates and closings as weather moves into the state.

The Osage Nation Emergency Management Department has been working with the Oklahoma State Emergency Management to prepare. Osage Nation officials say they have mobile generators staged at the Pawhuska campus and an electrician on standby. The tribal nation is also purchasing bottled water and has four-wheel drive vehicles ready to deliver meals.

Citizen Potawatomi Nation's emergency management team is monitoring the weather and will work with local agencies to respond to the needs of community members and citizens. CPN staff say they are working throughout the week to keep the Tribal complex and Tribal enterprises clear of snow and ice, as conditions allow. If any enterprises or offices close, CPN will post that information on their social media pages.

Muscogee Nation said they are prepared to close the tribal complex if conditions become too dangerous for employees to travel. Community centers will also be available as warming centers in the event of power outages.

“We will contribute any equipment or manpower needed to assist local and county officials with hazardous roadways," said Jason Salsman, Muscogee Nation’s press officer.

In far northeast Oklahoma, the Quapaw Nation is making similar preparations.

"We do see vehicle wrecks when we have a lot of ice and snow," said Zach Turley, member of Quapaw Nation’s business committee.

Turley said Quapaw Nation will have warming shelters available for citizens and will monitor power outages.

If the power grid comes under stress because of high demand, tribes may consider closing gaming facilities. During the February 2021 storm, Cherokee Nation closed their casinos, including the Hard Rock Casino in Catoosa, to conserve power when supply shortages were critical.

The National Weather Service is predicting a mix of sleet, snow and freezing rain and bitterly cold temperatures from Wednesday through Friday.

Allison Herrera is a radio and print journalist who's worked for PRX's The World, Colorado Public Radio as the climate and environment editor and as a freelance reporter for High Country News’ Indigenous Affairs desk.
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