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.
Impacts of Winter Storm Atlas on Livestock
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 the 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, videos, 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.
Relief Following Winter Storm Atlas
There has been a Ranchers Relief Fund established by the South Dakota Stockgrowers, South Dakota Cattlemen’s, 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 Cattlemen’s 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 stories 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 Winter Storm Atlas
- Ranch Radio KBHB: October blizzard taking a toll on livestock
- Rapid City Journal: Tens of thousands of cattle killed in Friday’s blizzard, ranchers say
- KELOland: Ranchers Face Hard Job Of Carcass Clean Up
- The Globe and Mail: Blizzard kills 60,000 cattle in South Dakota as shutdown slows aid
- AgFax: South Dakota Storm Kills 10s of 1000s of Cattle
- Rapid City KOTA: Cattle on the loose due to storm Atlas
- Beef Magazine: 5 Resources For South Dakota Ranchers Hit By October Blizzard
- KOTA News: Livestock deaths cost ranchers millions
- KOTA News: Ranchers start to clean up after storm; how you can help
- NBCNews: Shutdown worsens historic blizzard that killed tens of thousands of South Dakota cattle
- CNN: South Dakota blizzard kills, buries cows; shutdown leaves ranchers in the cold
- Tri-State Livestock News: Storm Atlas takes its toll, perserverance will remain
- Beef Magazine: Rancher Details “Gut-Wrenching” Pain From Cattle Lost In SD Blizzard
- Brownfield Ag News: South Dakota cattle losses may be greater than first thought
- Argus Leader: Cattle losses ‘mounting up’ West River; relief fund established
Blogger Perspectives on the South Dakota Blizzard and Aftermath
- JodieB Photography: Belle Fourche and Spearfish, SD–After the Blizzard 10/13
- Jenn Zeller: My Heart Breaks and How Can You Help?
- Shelby Bodine: Tens of Thousands of Cattle Dead Due to Winter Storm Atlas
- Cheyenne Glade Wilson: The Storm Atlas (poem)
- Val Wagner: Mother Nature didn’t shut down
- BigBallsInCowTown: October 2013 Snowstorm (photos)
- Facebook Page: Atlas Blizzard Ranch Relief and Aid and Ranchers Relief Fund
- Katie Pinke: Stuck in Snow in South Dakota
- Jodene Shaw: Broken Dreams and Hearts On the Western Dakota Prairie
- Nicole Small: Heartache in South Dakota
- Robyn Goddard: October Blizzard
- Tami Gillbert: Death
- Jan Hoadley: Heartbreak in the Heartland
- Dawn Wink: The Blizzard that Never Was – and its Aftermath on Cattle and Ranchers
- Beer Ranch: Snow and a few cows
There are many more links and stories out there about the South Dakota October Blizzard. If you have any links, please share them 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
- Rapid City Journal: Pennington County digs free mass burial pits for cattle killed in blizzard
- The Blaze: Record-setting Blizzard Killed 75,000 cows and you might not have even heard about it
- Beef Magazine: Ranchers Will Prevail After Winter Storm Atlas Devastates Cattle Herd
- The Montana Cowgirl: Thinking of you South Dakota
- Pinke Post: Don’t put a tarp over it. Donate and Rally For Ranchers
- Modern Farmer: The Forgotten Blizzard – Little help or concern arrives
- Illinois Farm Bureau: Out in the Cold
- Love Livestock: I Feel Angry – The repercussions of storm “Atlas”
- Heim Dairy: Prayers for South Dakota
- Pretty Work: Questioning Cattle Deaths in South Dakota
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