What Atlas Did to South Dakota


Cattle could be seen in the ditch off Highway 34 east of Sturgis. It is estimated that hundreds, probably even thousands, of cattle died as a result of the early October blizzard.
Photo Credit

Last week a severe winter storm, Atlas, hit hard out west.  It hit eastern Wyoming and western South Dakota especially hard.  In my last post I said “it wasn’t like the blizzard of ’49”.  But I didn’t know what I didn’t know.


Picture taken Oct. 7th, 2013 Southwest of Faith, SD of a 500 lb. calf who perished in the storm
Photo Credit

What I didn’t know at the time was that, while it brought our crew some sleepless nights, extra worry and a lot of extra work, it brought our neighbors to the east along the Wyoming, South Dakota border and throughout western South Dakota, a tremendous amount of loss.


Picture taken Oct. 7th, 2013 Southwest of Faith, SD of 3 horses who perished with their heads caught in the wire
Photo Credit

While the country has been pre-occupied with the circus that is Washington DC, ranchers began digging out and what they found was, for many, devastating.  The Rapid City Journal is reporting tens of thousands of dead cattle across South Dakota…..tens of thousands.  Reuters is reporting current estimates of 60,000.  It’s also reporting that aid will be slow because the program that would allow ranchers to apply for disaster aid (which may reimburse them for only a portion of their loss) is part of the 2008 Farm Bill which expired on Oct 1st and we all know how much Congress is getting done at the moment.


Picture taken Oct. 7th, 2013 Southwest of Faith, SD of cattle who walked toward the Southeast
until they could no longer take it and just dropped
Photo Credit

Because the storm was so early in the season the cattle had not grown their winter coats yet and all were out on open range and had not been brought onto winter feed grounds yet.  It rained for several hours first, thoroughly soaking the animals before it began snowing and the winds kicked up in the neighborhood of 70 miles an hour.  And snow it did, reports of up to 4 feet in places. The cattle drifted with the winds and snow looking for shelter. Some were caught in fence lines, some huddled together and were buried in and suffocated by snow.  There are reports of individual ranchers losing 20-50% of their herds.  To come upon a scene like those below and see your livestock, your livelihood gone in one fell swoop, is heartbreaking.  Ranchers are made of hardy stock to be sure but this….this is really, really hard.


Picture taken Oct. 7th, 2013 South of Faith, SD on Cherry Creek
Photo Credit


Picture taken Oct. 7th, 2013 (Correction) on New Underwood Road
Photo Credit


Along SD Hwy 212, dead cattle are being found. There are reports of losses of over 200 head from just one herd, south of Dupree, SD. Travelers came across this scene near the Gerald Woodward ranch, Dupree. Courtesy Photo by Erick In The Woods
Photo Credit

I’m working on gathering some photos and stories to tell about what how Atlas affected our ranch but we were very lucky.  We haven’t found all our cattle yet but we haven’t come across anything like this.  We just wanted our neighbors to the east to know that our thoughts and prayers are with them.

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12 Responses to What Atlas Did to South Dakota

  1. Pingback: The blizzard in South Dakota | cowcrzy

  2. Jessica Brooks says:

    I read your blog and want to thank you for explaining some of these misconceptions many are making! I am a meteorolgist in Nebraska and originally grew up on a farm in eastern South Dakota where my Dad still raises cattle. It saddens me deeply what those people are going through and the thought of what those animals were going through during the storm. This storm was insane and historic. From a forecasting standpoint, it is not easy to forecast historical conditions, especially snow amounts of 30+ inches in October. As the storm got closer in time the National Weather Service did issue Blizzard Warnings and increase the forecast amounts for snow as it became more apparent that in fact these extremely high amounts of snow would likely happen. That being said, I understand that still wouldn’t and didn’t give the ranchers time to move their cattle home. Unfortunately, this was a horrible situation, and I don’t know if there is anything anyone could have done to aleviate what ended up happening.

    Also, I thought I’d answer your question about ‘Atlas’. The Weather Channel started naming winter storms last year. Their naming system is only used by them, and other NBC television affiliates, although the public can refer to it as that. The names are by no means being used by the entire meteorological community and will not be used for storms in record books.

  3. Dawn says:

    Wow — unbelievable. I’m sad for the ranchers and also for the animals. The reality of this has to be heartbreaking for a lot of families. I am so sorry for all they’ve lost.

  4. Sue says:

    I cried viewing all of the pictures, but I did so in the comfort of my home in sunny California. I cannot begin to imagine what it must have been like for all of the people experiencing it first hand. My heartfelt condolences to everyone who suffered loss during this storm.

  5. Cathy says:

    So very, very sorry. I can’t comprehend the tragedy although I live on a ranch and have been through some very severe storms. May God bless.

  6. Pingback: Questioning Cattle Deaths in South Dakota | The Sarcastic Cynic™

  7. So so sad. I just came across this. This is my old stomping ground, me being from western South Dakota. I know all those areas, have driven by those same herds probably hundreds of times. I will be thinking of the ranchers and praying for swift assistance.

  8. Pingback: Sorrow for South Dakota | Life in the "ManeStream"

  9. Kristen says:

    Wow! Maybe if you stopped making money off the killing of living creatures, this sick event wouldn’t have impacted you this way. THERE IS A WAY TO MAKE A LIVING WITHOUT LIVING CREATURES

  10. Pingback: Random Thoughts, Events and Photos | Pretty Work

  11. Pingback: Tiergerechtes Erfrieren | Die Agrar-Blogger

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