PIERRE, S.D. -- Local, state and federal agents have begun preliminary assessments of property damage to determine whether South Dakota can receive federal disaster aid after two severe winter storms slammed the state within weeks of one another.

According to a Friday, May 3, news release from the state Department of Public Safety, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) officials, as well as local and state officials, on Monday began assessing damage done to homes and businesses by Winter Storms Ulmer and Wesley in March and April.

The first of the two storms, Winter Storm Ulmer, hit the state particularly hard thanks to a sudden warm-up after the storm, which caused the heavy snow to rapidly melt. Homes, businesses, farms and infrastructure in several communities were washed out, and some residents were left stranded.

Officials this week are beginning to assess the damage done to homes and businesses in Bennett, Bon Homme, Hutchinson, Jones, Minnehaha, Spink and Yankton counties, as well as on the Pine Ridge and Rosebud Indian Reservations. Additional counties and reservations will be assessed as the week goes on.

Next week on Monday, May 13, they will begin assessing damage to public infrastructure.

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Information collected in this month's assessments will help determine whether South Dakota can request federal disaster relief dollars to rebuild and whether a national emergency can be declared.

State legislators in March passed a resolution urging South Dakota's Washington delegation to pursue a national emergency declaration and federal relief dollars to help hurt communities rebuild.