MUSCOGEE (CREEK) NATION, Oklahoma – In the waning days of the holiday season, various areas of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation were hit by severe winter storms. Some areas saw snow and ice accumulation in neighborhoods and main roads. Temperatures dipped into the single digits as unrelenting arctic winds made it dangerous to go outdoors on Dec. 22.
The MCN Emergency Operations Center was activated the day before to monitor weather conditions. It allowed all agencies to assist those affected regarding ‘resource requests, damage assessments and recovery.’
While MCN tribal offices were initially expected to report for a half day, offices were closed or available remotely. MCN Director of Emergency Management Bobby Howard was out at 4 a.m. surveying road conditions. His team works with the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, and the National Weather Service to keep citizens safe.
According to Howard, the storms were not initially expected to roll through until later.
“What you saw that morning at six wasn’t supposed to be there until after lunch,” Howard said. “We get out early to check and double-check so that we can alert our employees just as soon as we know that it’s too dangerous for them to be coming in.”
Howard said Council Oak, the Mvskoke Dome, and the Okemah Community Hospital sustained damage from the storm.
In response to the severe weather conditions that plagued the reservation, Principal Chief David Hill signed Executive Order 22-03. The order is a proclamation declaring a state of emergency for the Muscogee (Creek) Nation.
The executive order states as follows.
‘Severe freezing hazardous weather, straight-line winds, and icing beginning Dec. 21, 2022, caused a significant threat to life and public and private property in the Muscogee (Creek) Nation Reservation. The health and welfare of our citizens are vitally important, and the Nation wants to ensure our citizens that we are taking necessary precautions to keep everyone safe.
The hazardous weather is expected to continue, and it may be necessary to provide mutual assistance among the Muscogee (Creek) Nation Reservation, the State of Oklahoma, and political subdivisions impacted by the ongoing emergency event.
The Muscogee (Creek) Nation Administration and Emergency Management Officials are continually monitoring the situation with updates and information from the National Weather Service and community and roadway status briefings from Lighthorse Police patrolling the boundaries.’
The order will allow the MCN Office of Emergency Management to prepare documents for a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) application. According to Howard, MCN Emergency Management does plan to apply for FEMA funds following the December storm.
After the application has been filed, a preliminary damage assessment team will survey the afflicted areas. The funds are divided into various sources, including individual assistance (IA), public assistance (PA), and Small Business Administration loans (SBA).
Just because a FEMA application has been filed, it does not necessarily mean that a tribe will be granted a disaster declaration.
“We have to meet certain criteria before we can get a disaster declaration,” Howard said. “Once they see that we meet all of our gates, we’ll do the official letter that goes to the White House for a disaster declaration.”
From there, the President of the United States will approve or disapprove of the declaration. Funding sources will be supported as well.
Looking ahead to the next severe winter storm, Howard said it’s essential to be prepared in case you get stuck on the road. This includes ensuring your car has plenty of fuel, having blankets on hand, and overall ensuring your car’s maintenance is up to date.