Snow storm in San Juan County leaves residents stranded

Posted at 10:01 PM, Mar 02, 2015
and last updated 2015-03-03 00:01:58-05

MONUMENT VALLEY, Utah -- A small southern Utah community is banding together in an effort to make sure dozens of families don’t starve and freeze. Community leaders say hundreds of homes are without power, or water and stranded by recent winter storms.

For the past week dozens of volunteers have been carting food, wood and coal to those homes. It’s not just a matter of snow, but the timing and the amount.

Many of the roads in this area are gravel or dirt roads. Typically during a winter storm the water would freeze, and melt slowly. This late in the season, however, roads are turning into mud pits.

“I’m really concerned about them,” said Oljato Monument Valley Community Coordinator Shirlee Bedonie. “I just hope they don’t try to start walking out to the road.”

Local San Juan County School Board Member Nelson Yellowman said it’s the worst winter storm in recent memory, and has forced the closure of the local schools since last Tuesday.

“We’ve had a couple of buses that got stuck up on one of the mesas,” Yellowman said. “For the safety of the kids, we decided to close the schools.”

The community has relied on donations to help stock the homes of stranded families, but say they’re running out of supplies.

As of Monday, coordinators estimated their wood supply would only last another day. Bedonie said the county has pledged more wood, but it’s a concern day by day.

For those families, though, it’s hope.

Angela Atene lives in one of the more accessible areas, still without power or water, she’s grateful for the community efforts.

“It means a lot,” Atene said. “It’s great to know the community and the chapter house is willing to help.”

Yellowman said they’re just taking conditions a day at a time, and waiting for the ground to dry enough to get people out.