South Dakota Blizzard leaves devastation for ranchers

South Dakota October Blizzard Storm Atlas Stories News Resources Blogs

Update: An updated list of coverage of the Atlas Blizzard can be found at the bottom of the post.

Proceeds from sweatshirt to benefit ranchers.

There hasn’t been much national media coverage of it, most likely due to coverage of the government shutdown, but Winter Storm Atlas took a huge toll on folks in Western South Dakota earlier this month. With reports of up to 58″ of snow and almost hurricane-force winds, South Dakotans were struck hard with an early season blizzard of historic proportions.

Amid all of the difficulties this much snow brings, shutting down I-90 and paralyzing towns, many ranchers took a direct blow from the storm. Estimates are that upwards of 70,000 cattle, horses, and livestock perished in the storm. That means many ranchers lost all of this year’s calf crop and a good majority of their cow herds. Many livestock were out on Summer and Fall ranges, sometimes miles from winter pastures where shelter is better suited for winter storms. Even horses and livestock in pens closer to the house perished in the feet of snow, strong winds, and cold that came this early in the season. Many cattle trailed with the wind and when they found shelter, many were buried when snow drifted and covered them. In most cases, there wasn’t much that could be done.

Now ranchers face the difficult task of documenting their losses and cleaning up the carcasses. The images, video, and stories coming out of the region are graphic. I’ve encountered many losses in ranching, having several cattle at once struck dead by lightning, but I cannot imagine what it must be like to see dead cattle and horses strung out for more than 100 miles. Devastating.

There has been a Ranchers Relief Fund established by the South Dakota Stockgrowers, South Dakota Cattlemens, and South Dakota Sheep Growers Associations to aid the folks impacted by this storm. Federal aid, if any at all, will likely be delayed due to the squabbles occurring in Washington D.C. Please consider helping in any way you can. Even if that means offering up a few words of encouragement and support to these ranchers through social media.

South Dakota Cattlemens Association has a Storm Resources page that is being continually updated. The South Dakota Extension has continual updates and resources listed on their page.

Here is a brief list of storied I have seen posted covering the storm from South Dakota. Images of livestock carcasses are graphic, but it is the reality of this storm.

Media Coverage of South Dakota Storm Atlas

Blogger Perspectives on the South Dakota Blizzard and Aftermath

There are many more links and stories out there about the South Dakota October Blizzard. If you have any links, please share below in the comments section. Again, I’ll remind you, if you can, please consider helping in any way you can and pass along word of the Ranchers Relief Fund.

Updated links covering Atlas Blizzard and Aftermath


  1. My thoughts and prayers are with all the folks in South Dakota affected by this devastating weather. God Bless you!

  2. I’ve seen photos of the devastation and it breaks my heart. My prayers and concern go out to those who were affected by this storm. Having had the experience of raising cattle and other livestock, for more than 50 years, I can’t begin to imagine what these folks are going through. And thanks for all you do to make us aware, Ryan.

  3. This storm was truly unreal. Thank you for compiling all the current news recordings of this horrendous blizzard.

  4. My thoughts and prayers go to all of the ranchers, farmers. Storm Atlas devasted you all. I cannot begin to explain the heartache that I feel for the loss. I was lucky enough to visit SD. And felt as if I were home. SD is God’s country. All my prayers go out to all of you. And may your beautiful state stay as beautiful and frre as it was when I was there. May God Bless you all. Counrty girl from the hills of TN

  5. We talked about the blizzard in my Public Relations in Agriculture last week. I had known that there had been a blizzard and that a lot of livestock were claimed, but I had no idea the extent until we talked about. I was almost sick to my stomach thinking about what it would be like to go through that kind of loss. My thoughts have definitely gone out to the ranchers and farmers who suffered from Atlas.

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