Third Weather-related Death Reported on Navajo Nation

by Alysa Landry
The Daily Times
02 February 2010

CRYSTAL An 88-year-old woman was found dead near the Crystal Chapter on the Navajo Nation last Wednesday, police reported.

The woman, whose name was not released, was found in the middle of the road about seven miles north of Crystal.

"Out of respect for the family, we're not releasing the name," said Selena Manychildren, spokeswoman for the Navajo Nation Emergency Operation Center.

The Chinle Police District of the Navajo Nation Division of Public Safety reports that the woman insisted on visiting her sister at 4 a.m., and when her vehicle got stuck in the mud, she continued on foot. A road-grader operator discovered the woman's body about 25 yards from her vehicle.

The death is the third on the reservation during the past weeks believed to be weather related, Manychildren said.

The Chinle Police District also is checking on an individual believed to be stranded at a sheep camp northeast of the Pinon Chapter.

Efforts in search-and-rescue operations are hampered by road conditions in remote areas, Deputy Incident Commander David Nez said in a prepared statement. Main roads are graded and kept open for school buses and emergency response.

"The Emergency Operation Center focus is on reports of large groups of people isolated by the weather conditions," he said. No additional missing people reports are being investigated.

Meanwhile, emergency responders are slowing down their deliveries to families believed to be stranded by the heavy snow and accompanying mud, Manychildren said. Crews of responders last week made rapid deliveries of food, water, fuel and livestock feed to residents unable to leave home because of impassable roads.

"It's kind of slowing down right now because emergency responders took care of all the situations in the rural areas," she said. "Single incidents are being referred to the chapters for assistance."

Winter weather often presents the Navajo Nation with two emergencies, Manychildren said. Deep snow and ice conditions often are followed by soft mud that makes travel impossible. Officials continue to warn residents of muddy conditions.

"It's going to muddy, and it's going to be messy," Manychildren said. "We're getting flooding in the low-lying areas. Snow is melting, so it's going to be very muddy."

The Nation did not experience mud emergencies last year, but the winter of 2008 left the reservation in knee-deep mud.

"It varies by year," Manychildren said. "You can never tell what Mother Nature is going to do. You've just got to try to be prepared."

The Emergency Operation Center is stressing emergency preparedness for anyone planning to spend time in the outdoors. Individuals should dress appropriately for winter weather, travel in pairs and keep in touch with relatives.

It also advises people to carry cell phones, water, food, matches and flashlights. Vehicles should be equipped with tire chains and shovels.

"We need to respect the winter condition around us," Nez said in a prepared statement. "It is a great blessing to the environment to have all this moisture."

Alysa Landry: 



Reprinted as an historical reference document under the Fair Use doctrine of international copyright law.