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A number of people who weren’t prepared or ready for the brutal cold also left after the evacuation, a steady stream of cars proceeding down state highway 1806. Those who remain will face wind chills that could drop down to negative 40 degrees this week.

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People remaining at the camp were careful to cover every inch of exposed skin, wearing balaclavas and ski goggles to cover their faces. People without adequate cover for their faces emerged with chapped, heavily windburned skin. Facial hair, eyelashes, and our photographer’s camera sprouted a layer of frost.

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Oceti Sakowin and Sacred Stone sit on opposite sides of the Cannonball River, which has frozen solid. Every small county highway leading to the camp is also icy and treacherous: on Wednesday morning, proceeding into the camp, I spotted 13 stranded cars on the side of the road. Even in the places where the highway was passable, incredibly strong wind gusts blew the snow across the road, limiting visibility at times to just a few feet in front of the car.

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On the whole, tipis and yurts at Oceti Sakowin were faring better than tents, many of which had collapsed in on themselves under layers of snow and ice.

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There is simply no understating how difficult and potentially deadly the conditions at Standing Rock will be this winter. You can donate supplies to Standing Rock water protectors here and here. Donate to a legal fund here. 

Update: In an Instagram post this afternoon, Oceti Sakowin asked anyone planning to come to the camp to stay home, saying the weather conditions made it too dangerous for anyone new to join the camp.

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