Ranchers worked by hand to shovel cattle free from 8-foot snowdrifts after a powerful blizzard hit South Dakota March 13 and 14.
“Walking 8-foot drifts and looking for your stock is tough, but it’s something my family chose to do,” said Dale J. Vocu, whose family owns Three Mile Creek Rodeo Co. near Kyle.
She shared a video on Facebook of workers freeing stranded cattle with scoop shovels. She spoke to the Tri-State Neighbor via Facebook Messenger.
They were able to save six, including one of their bucking bulls named Night Dreams, another small bull and a few yearlings. She wasn’t sure how many head they lost.
“It was a tough one,” she said. “This blizzard took a hard toll on Three Mile Creek Ranch.”
Much of South Dakota is recovering from blizzards and flooding.
West River communities were hit with more than a foot of snow in some places. Kadoka recorded 18 inches. Wind gusts of 60 to 70 mph created drifts several feet deep, according to the National Weather Service.
In eastern South Dakota, rivers were expected to crest Friday or Saturday. Several counties in central and southeastern South Dakota, northwestern Iowa, southwestern Minnesota and northeastern Nebraska were under a hazardous weather outlook after heavy rains fell Wednesday, March 13.
Gov. Kristi Noem opened the state Emergency Operations Center in Pierre to help coordinate response to blizzard and flood conditions. She plans to issue an emergency declaration for the storm, according to a statement March 14.
Troy Hadrick, in Faulkton, told Forum News Service he was thankful that it hadn’t rained before the snow started. As of Thursday morning, he was evaluating what to do. He couldn’t make it through the snow drifts to the feedlot to check on calves there. His heifers are calving, but other family members are caring for them. His cows are about 10 days away from calving, and his biggest concern for them was that the drifts would get high enough that the cows would walk over fences.
North Dakota faced similar challenges.
Mark Wagner has memories of the April 1997 storm that hit North Dakota, and he’s heard all about the 1966 storm before he was born that took lives, both human and livestock. He thinks the blizzard of March 2019 might go down in history with those past events.
Wagner’s land, located south of Jamestown, N.D., was among the hardest hit areas. Nearby Ellendale had reports of 12 inches of snow; Edgeley to the north had 14, and Ashley had 16, according to the National Weather Service.
Wagner is about two-thirds done calving, and while he doesn’t wish for the inclement weather, he also isn’t surprised by it.
“It’s not fun, but I’d like to think that I’m prepared so that I hopefully am not doing an injustice to my cows by having them have calves now,” he said.
Preparedness was the key for many. Ranchers across the region reported locking cows in barns ahead of the storm or making sure their livestock could reach some wind protection.
Sara VandeHoven Hinrichs, northwest of Carrington, N.D., said cows that were close to calving were in the barns, and the rest were protected by a shelterbelt. A video system in one barn helped them keep an eye on the cows there, but there was no camera in the other barn or on the cows outside.
“You just have to trust that you did the best you could to protect them,” she said.