Heather Hamilton-Maude is a Scenic, SD, rancher and was among those impacted by winter storm Atlas that ravaged western South Dakota, Nebraska and Wyoming the weekend of Oct. 4. The system dumped 2 in. of rain on Thursday, before switching to snow and dumping 19 in. of snow on Friday alone. Total accumulations for the area were near or over 23 in. of snow on top of the rain, with reported wind gusts in the upper 80-mph range.
Due to the accumulation of heavy, wet snow and wind, Maude says it took her family two days to travel the 25 miles from their house to the pasture where their cattle are located. Here are some scenes of the heartbreaking aftereffects.
Please note there are some graphic photos that detail the gruesome scenes found by many ranchers when they were able to get to their herds. Our hearts go out to all of those impacted. Read Maude's personal story recapping the devastation and how their community is banding together here.
More Winter Storm Atlas Information:
5 Resources For South Dakota Ranchers Hit By October Blizzard
Cattle Death Toll Rises As 'Atlas' Blizzard Recovery Continues
Producers Should Document Livestock Losses
Early South Dakota Blizzard Leaves Thousands Of Cattle Dead
Identifying and cutting ear tags from the animals we found deceased helped in keeping an accurate count of the lost. My husband Charles Maude and sister-in-law Elizabeth Maude try to keep their composure while digging out the animals' heads to remove the ear tags on yearling heifers found in a creek bed.</p>
Charles Maude working to save a yearling heifer that was buried alive in a bank of snow. A tractor was immediately called to help with the task. This heifer survived the ordeal of being buried alive.</p>
She may not look healthy, but this heifer was still alive following the Atlas Blizzard, unlike several of her counterparts. Marion Maude, Charles Maude and Tom Hamilton work to get her loaded in the tractor bucket and hauled to dry ground and feed, where her chances for survival will increase significantly.</p>
Ranchers in the area east of Hermosa, SD, worked tirelessly in the days following the Atlas blizzard to locate missing livestock. This heifer was still alive after spending the blizzard buried in a snow drift, and is being hauled to dry ground in this photo. Charles Maude works to get her head pulled around while his father waits to haul her to safety.</p>
After locating survivors, they were slowly trailed home to a waiting meal. These cattle drifted just over a mile from the visible skyline to a man's hay corral, where they wintered the storm better than most. We have not weaned yet, and our initial, rough count shows the storm killed many more cows than calves, which has us baffled. Trailing our cattle home was a sobering experience, as we passed the many dead not belonging to us along the fence line of our pasture.</p>
The images of thousands of cattle dead along the western South Dakota plains will not be soon forgotten. Hundreds are caught in fence lines or corners, and reports are being heard of hundreds of head lost in single herds.</p>
Some of the worst death rates in cattle were those in and around buildings. These were in a man's corral for much of the storm, and had to be removed before the snow melted and the mud became too deep to reach them. Shown is my husband Charles Maude helping to remove them from the man's yard with the help my parents' hydrabed, which they graciously delivered to us for use in helping to feed those cattle that lived and carry away those that did not.</p>
This group of cattle that didn't survive the Atlas blizzard are being placed in the southeast corner of the pasture ours are located in. As smaller groups are identified, this is one of the locations they are being hauled to.</p>
The most immediate threat at present is the severe flooding resulting from the high amount of moisture the Atlas Blizzard dumped in Western South Dakota late last week in combination with the warming temperatures and sunshine seen since the storm.</p>
As the snow recedes the death toll climbs. In many cases cow deaths largely outnumbered calf deaths. While many ranchers hadn't weaned prior to the storm, there are a lot of weaned calves as a result of the storm. These calves are considered high risk as the weather varies from sunny to rain and more snow over the next week.</p>
While stiff and weak, those cattle that survived are otherwise in good health. We have been working to ensure they're fed on the highest, driest points, and have been watching for signs of sickness.</p>
The tireless work of the crews restoring electricity to western South Dakota is greatly appreciated by the entire ranching community. My in-laws got power back on Tuesday evening (Oct. 8), while my husband and I expect to be without power for several more days.</p>