A blizzard came through last week. Not here in Minnesota, but just to our west in neighboring South Dakota.
Yes, I know it’s early October. We’re supposed to be enjoying the golds and oranges of fall foliage coupled with the last warm days of the season, but that didn’t stop heavy drifts of snow from blanketing some of the northern Great Plains.
“Cumbersome and inconvenient” might be words that first come to mind. Certainly nobody likes a fall blizzard. But for the people and cattle that make their home on this open range land the blizzard was sadly a matter of life and death.
Over the weekend I heard a brief snippet on the radio about “40 inches of snow that caused some South Dakota herds to lose up to half of their cattle.”
I could hardly believe those numbers, but my heart immediately went to my throat as I thought about the situation. Surely it must be bad.
As someone who understands the sacrifice it takes to raise animals for your very livelihood, I just cannot imagine the devastation.
I am crushed when I lose a single calf. I know I truly can’t fathom how hard it must be for these ranchers. My prayers go out to them.
News of the story eventually hit the web, and although reports vary, it’s clear that multiple feet of snow hit the region and thousands of cattle lay dead.
The storm got so much worse than forecasted that preparations made simply weren’t enough.
Many accounts, including the Rapid City Journal, report that freezing rain soaked the cattle for hours and then the snow and 60+ mph wind came. These cattle hadn’t had time to grow their winter coats yet for warmth, and many were still out on less sheltered summer pasture instead of their more protected winter pastures.
The Journal’s full account is here, complete with photos, including the one below.
I also want to share another account of the storm with you, this one from someone close to the situation.
Dawn’s parents live right where the storm raged, and these are her words.
As you can probably tell, I can’t get this tragedy out of my head. As I think about the destruction and death, not to mention the work that lies ahead, I can only hope and pray that those effected will have the strength to get through this and move forward.
And I believe they will. Midwesterners are a hardy breed and so are farmers and ranchers. When you combine the two, I’m convinced there’s nothing that can conqueror their spirit.
No matter where you live and no matter if you’ve ever set foot in the vast prairies or wooded black hills of South Dakota, I hope you’ll say a prayer for them.
I know the middle of the country is full of “fly over states,” but it’s also the heartland. And it needs your love right now.
With God’s grace, tomorrow will be a new day.
Edit: As I think about this more, I just want to say I realize many people besides ranchers and many animals besides cattle were certainly effected by this storm. I’m thinking of them all. And my prayers go out to all.
In following this story I’ve come across the newly created South Dakota Rancher Relief Fund to help those who lost cattle or sheep in the storm. If you are able to help by giving financially I know it is deeply appreciated.