When propane is your main source of heat, a national shortage can hit hard. If you can find some, it's going to cost a lot. And if you can't afford it, you could be stuck in the cold. People on the Standing Rock Reservation are in that situation.
A national propane shortage has caused the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to declare a state of emergency. Nearly 90 percent of the people on the reservation use propane to heat their homes. And as temperatures dip below zero, many people are finding it difficult to stay warm.
"They're already on a fixed income, so they have to make a choice. Do we need heat or do we need food? It starts becoming a situation where it's not their fault anymore," says Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault.
Many people qualify for fuel assistance programs, but for some, it's not enough. A lot of families are being displaced, because they don't have enough money to buy propane. And the tribe is doing what they can to provide food and shelter to those who need it.
"Let's get Red Cross involved. Let's get FEMA involved. Let's see what there is that we can do to assure that nobody's life is lost," he says.
The Red Cross is already doing what it can to help.
"They've had a trailer up here for about a year with blankets and cots and generators, cleaning supplies, some MREs, which are food packets that you heat up with water and can be used in emergency situations," says Elliott Wald.
If the shelters weren't available, some people would have nowhere to turn. Jessica Pleetz and her six kids are staying at one of the shelters. She says if it wasn't for the tribe, they'd be forced to stay in a less desirable location.
"Probably in our car. I mean, we have relatives and stuff, but they have a lot of people in their homes, too. So, it's really crammed. And I don't want to put any pressures on my family to help me out, you know. So the tribe is always a good place to ask," says Pleetz.
Archambault says $500 used to be enough to heat a home for more than a month. But right now, it's not enough. People are running out of propane in only about to two to three weeks. The tribe has reached out to the state and federal governments for assistance.
The tribe is urging people to conserve energy and monitor their propane tanks. Archambault recommends turning down your furnace and keeping doors and windows closed. He also suggests heating only one room if necessary.
Wald says alternative heating sources, such as space heaters, can be dangerous and may increase the incidence of house fires on the reservation.
Some help will soon be on the way. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is giving North Dakota $3.4 million to provide heating assistance to those facing financial hardship through the Low Income Energy Assistance Program.
Sunday, March 9 2014 8:57 AM EDT2014-03-09 12:57:59 GMT
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Sunday, March 9 2014 8:54 AM EDT2014-03-09 12:54:06 GMT
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Sunday, March 9 2014 8:50 AM EDT2014-03-09 12:50:18 GMT
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Sunday, March 9 2014 8:48 AM EDT2014-03-09 12:48:30 GMT
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