Tribe declares state of emergency due to floods

Noel Lyn Smith
Eric Shorty on Monday walks as he talks about the damages done to his relative's home located next door to the Shorty residence on Farm Road in Shiprock.

GALLUP – The Navajo Nation Commission on Emergency Management declared a state of emergency today for communities impacted by recent heavy rain that caused destructive flooding on the reservation.

The action opens the door to dedicate tribal resources to help the areas in and around Shiprock that were impacted as well as for coordinating response efforts with the Emergency Operation Center within the tribe’s Department of Emergency Management.

The commission's declaration was issued two days after Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye and Vice President Jonathan Nez signed an executive order declaring an emergency for impacted communities.

Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye.

Under the executive order, the tribe's divisions, departments and chapter service coordinators are directed to coordinate their response efforts.

The president signed the executive order Saturday, after he visited Shiprock, according to a press release from his office.

Shiprock sustained heavy rain and flooding Friday with a majority of the damage occurring near Salt Wash, also known as First Wash, in the Mesa Farm area.

Homes were destroyed but no lives were lost, although residents reported losing livestock.

"Although we are thankful for the monsoon rains, at this time we see that it’s necessary to implement a declaration to assist those that are currently displaced and are in need of food, clothing and shelter," Begaye said in the release.

Shiprock Chapter President Duane "Chili" Yazzie said in a telephone interview that clean up efforts continued today.

A number of homes were declared uninhabitable due to extensive flooding and the majority of those structures housed multi-generational families, Yazzie said.

Chris Shorty on Monday removes drywall from a room  at his brother's residence on Farm Road in Shiprock.

At least one family remains sheltered at the chapter house while others have relocated to hotels in Farmington. A number of families are working to obtain emergency housing with Navajo Housing Authority and an apartment complex in Shiprock, he added.

Chapter officials created a GoFundMe account to assist the families in purchasing items lost in the flood. The account can be found under "Shiprock Flood Emergency" on the GoFundMe website.

So far the response effort has come from the tribal president's office, the speaker's office, tribal enterprises, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Indian Health Service and San Juan County, Yazzie said.

"They are providing whatever resources are appropriate," he said.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-546-4636.

At right, Eric Shorty removes a door on Monday as he and family members help clean up his home on Farm Road in Shiprock.