October's early blizzard: Community counts the cost

2013-10-14T03:45:00Z 2014-09-08T14:15:15Z October's early blizzard: Community counts the costMilo Dailey Butte County Post staff Rapid City Journal
October 14, 2013 3:45 am  • 

On the northern plains from Harding County southward, rangeland and communities this weekend were counting up costs from the early October blizzard that hit with unexpected force on cow herds and sheep flocks, city trees and utility service everywhere.

The full effect and costs of the deluge of rain Thursday and the following heavy wet snow blasted onto rangelands may not be known for months.

The potential of $20 million or more losses just to Butte County Ranchers kept a shadow over the town communities that serve the agricultural economy.

Butte County's Emergency Management Director Martha Wierzbicki detailed costs estimated up to last Thursday just for cities and rural electric cooperatives: Belle Fourche so far, roughly $41,000. Newell about $39,000. Butte Electric, $300,000 in disaster costs. Grand Electric some $1.6 million. Figures still were out for Butte County government, Fruitdale and Vale communities.

Livestock losses were estimated by some as high as $20 million or well above that figure.

Many ranchers had livestock from the region's cow-calf economy still on the high plains summer pastures in the county. Reports still were slow on the county's sheep flocks remaining after a disastrous season of low lamb prices.

In the county's towns, branches with leaves still on them had shattered from nearly every tree.

The costs to individuals from power outages, lost work, lost business sales, repairs and tree removal may never be known.

Belle Fourche set aside areas of the Roundup Grounds paved parking lots to hold branches brought in by city crews and private vehicles. Streets still remained lined with branches Sunday afternoon.

Mayor Gary Hendrickson had said the Monday following the storm that he figured it could be more than a month before the storm effects had been cleaned up.

Branches falling on homes and vehicles did some damage, but more probably came from damage to electric wires.

Sunday night Mutch Usera of Black Hills Power said that as of 6 p.m., all but 18 Belle Fourche customers had power restored. He added 20 remained without power in Sturgis and 14 in Spearfish.

In a news release, Usera said, "Additional outages have come up throughout the day due to several tree clearing cases where secondary damage was done by trees being removed."

Significant numbers of customers without power may be waiting for customer-hired electricians. Black Hills Power is responsible for getting electricity to a "service mast" at a customer's location, he said, but if the service mast, meter can or connection to the home or building was damaged, that's the customer's responsibility before power can be restored.

Some BHP customers in more hard to reach areas may have power outages into next week.

The outages in Belle Fourche appeared to hit harder at certain areas. One area might have been out of power for the week following the storm while homes across the street had experienced only a few hours without electricity.

Cable companies with television, internet and telephone services were still working Sunday to restore service in areas around Belle Fourche.

Belle Fourche firefighters had been called during the storm to block areas where downed electric wires were a huge risk to area residents. Live wires sometimes partly hidden by wet snow brought intermittent street closures.

While the heavy snow had largely melted by Friday, a combination of runoff and another heavy rain brought some flooding to Belle Fourche along Hay Creek.

Rural storm damage seemed to be worse east of U.S. Highway 85 in the county, and heaviest on the flat plains on the county's east and southeast.

At Union Center in Meade County near the southeast corner of Butte County, rancher and state Sen. Larry Rhoden said Saturday that some cattle had been moved a dozen miles as if there had been no fences at all.

He said he was lucky that his livestock had drifted to his home place, but that some area ranchers he knew had lost all but a few cows and calves.

The toll from the storm, he said Saturday, may not be known for weeks or months, but it was the worst he had seen or heard about.

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(1) Comments

  1. Rickdm
    Report Abuse
    Rickdm - October 16, 2013 7:34 am
    No one yet has mentioned the loss of crops that were still in the field and the loss of the hay bales that are mostly setting in water.
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