75,000+ Cattle Frozen to Death; The Plains “Blizzard that Never Happened”
In parts of South Dakota a record breaking snow storm reigned frozen death along the plains. Four Feet of snow blanketed the area of the Western parts of the state leaving some ranchers with extremely heavy losses. The extremely early blizzard killed as much as up to 50% or more of some farmers cattle, leaving them comb the snow banks for what is left of their heard and life’s work.
Meanwhile power companies were still scrambling to keep people from freezing as well. Tens of Thousands of People were still without power Monday as the powerful storm rocked parts of Colorado, Wyoming, and South Dakota. The same front brought destructive tornadoes out of season into places like Nebraska and Iowa as well. At least 4 weather related deaths are reported as of Monday and estimates may climb for areas without power. One included a man that collapsed due to weather while cleaning the snow off his roof.
One rancher was extremely concerned and explained that this could have impacts on the beef industry even two years into the future.
Gary Cammack, who ranches on the prairie near Union Center about 40 miles northeast of the Black Hills, said he lost about 70 cows and some calves, about 15 percent of his herd. A calf would normally sell for $1,000, while a mature cow would bring $1,500 or more, he said.
“It’s bad. It’s really bad. I’m the eternal optimist and this is really bad,” Cammack said. “The livestock loss is just catastrophic. … It’s pretty unbelievable.”
Cammack said cattle were soaked by 12 hours of rain early in the storm, so many were unable to survive an additional 48 hours of snow and winds up to 60 mph.
“It’s the worst early season snowstorm I’ve seen in my lifetime,” said Cammack, 60.
Early estimates suggest western South Dakota lost at least 5 percent of its cattle, said Silvia Christen, executive director of the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association. Some individual ranchers reported losses of 20 percent to 50 percent of their livestock, Christen said. The storm killed calves that were due to be sold soon as well as cows that would produce next year’s calves in an area where livestock production is a big part of the economy, she said.
“This is, from an economic standpoint, something we’re going to feel for a couple of years,” Christen said.
Even more ranchers were at an even bigger loss and said that estimates were almost impossible to obtain because huge snow drifts covered fences and may have allowed cattle to not only leave their area but wander aimlessly in the snow for miles.
“Some cattle might be flat buried in a snow bank someplace,” said Shane Kolb of Meadow
The state Department of Agriculture said that it may be days if not longer to produce the final estimates on losses to the beef market because of the farmers not being able to get out, be mobile, or track lost heard numbers.
We’ve got guys flying over our territory, counting as they go. We’re finding more as we are able to access the roads. The roads have been pretty blocked on these rural country roads,” Seim said.
“One of our biggest challenges is getting access to areas that are still snowed in,” added Vance Crocker, vice president of operations for Black Hills Power, whose crews were being hampered by rugged terrain in the Black Hills region.-Rapid City’s The Daily Republic
Meanwhile only Monday was snow lightening up to travel. The main roads were cleared by crews but people were still told in Rapid City to stay indoors and schools were closed due to down power lines, tree limbs, and other potential hazards. The city’s airport did not re-open until Monday.
Cleanup also continued after nine tornadoes hit northeast Nebraska and northwest Iowa on Friday, injuring at least 15 people and destroying several homes and businesses. Authorities also are blaming the weather for a car accident that killed three people along a slick, snow-covered road in Nebraska.
In South Dakota, the 19 inches of snow that fell in Rapid City on Friday broke the city’s 94-year-old one-day snowfall record for October by about 9 inches, according to the National Weather Service. The city also set a record for snowfall in October, with a total of 23.1 inches during the storm. The previous record was 15.1 inches in October 1919.- Rapid City’s The Daily Republic