Ranchers Reflect on Community One Year After Atlas Blizzard

Image courtesy of Weather.com

Image courtesy of Weather.com

It’s hard to believe, but this weekend marks the one year anniversary of the Atlas Blizzard. The unexpected early-season storm targeted a region surrounding western South Dakota, burying thousands of ranches below feet of snow, killing thousands of livestock, and leaving hundreds of ranchers devastated, cleaning up the aftermath. The event, largely going unnoticed by national media, resulted in the national ranching community gathering in support, raising millions of dollars toward cleanup and recovery efforts, along with many ranchers donating replacement heifers to aid those who had lost nearly everything.

While many ranchers and communities from the region are far from complete recovery after the storm, many are thankful for the support from their peers and reflect on the reactions as we approach this anniversary. The following is a letter sent out by those affected and we want to share those with you today.

Thank you from those impacted by Atlas…

As we near the one-year anniversary of winter storm Atlas, the ranching people and communities devastated by the storm would like to say “thank you” to everyone who rallied behind us and extended such kindness and generosity toward us over the course of the past year.

It is an indescribably humbling, blessed experience to be on the receiving end of such grace and giving as that which poured into western South Dakota and the surrounding area in the weeks and months following the storm. You have impacted our lives in the most powerful, positive way, restoring our faith in humanity and increasing our love and appreciation for our lifestyle and those we share it with.

To those who donated livestock or money to the cause, we did receive them but at times without the original donor’s name attached. As you likely know, there is no greater gift to a rancher than a good bred heifer or cow, and while we found it difficult to accept such a costly and incredible gift, they have made all the difference. The same can be said of the monetary donations that found their way to our mailboxes. We are the independent type, as you likely are, and we hold ourselves accountable for making it on our own. But, those dollars came at critical times for us and covered bills that would have been difficult to find funds for otherwise.

There are those who donated their craft to auctions to generate funds, the communities and individuals who organized and delivered amazing Thanksgiving and Christmas baskets, and those who took the time to write, call or email personal words of encouragement. There were the people who traveled to areas impacted to help rebuild following the storm, the businesses who donated their goods and services, and those who developed online resources to help both those impacted and those wishing to help.

This is only a smattering of the countless acts of kindheartedness executed on our behalf. A glimpse into the hours individuals, families and companies put into helping us make it through the effects of the storm. Because of these efforts we are going to make it, and if you didn’t hear it from someone personally, please take it from all of us – thank you! You have made a magnificent difference in our present and future success, and we thank God for each and every one of you who took the time to help us in your own way. While we hope to never have to repay the favor, we stand ready with the example you set in our minds eye should the time ever come. May God bless you and American agriculture.

Sincerely,
The ranching families and communities hit by winter storm Atlas in Oct. 2013

Immediately following the storm, ranchers in the area's hit hardest by the Oct., 2013 winter storm Atlas searched and were devastated to find a staggering number of animals had succumbed to the record breaking snow, wind and cold wrought by the storm.

Immediately following the storm, ranchers in the area’s hit hardest by the Oct., 2013 winter storm Atlas searched and were devastated to find a staggering number of animals had succumbed to the record breaking snow, wind and cold wrought by the storm.

It took 16 days for power to be restored to every household in western South Dakota following the Atlas blizzard. West River Electric Association employees as well as over 100 additional helpers worked tirelessly to get power back on in both rural and more populated areas.

It took 16 days for power to be restored to every household in western South Dakota following the Atlas blizzard. West River Electric Association employees as well as over 100 additional helpers worked tirelessly to get power back on in both rural and more populated areas.

Numerous thoughtful donations found their way into the homes of those impacted by Atlas, including a complete Thanksgiving feast organized and delivered by North Dakota communities. From homemade pies and loaves to bread to a turkey, thermos and hope inspired artwork, gifts such as this touched the hearts of those on the receiving end.

Numerous thoughtful donations found their way into the homes of those impacted by Atlas, including a complete Thanksgiving feast organized and delivered by North Dakota communities. From homemade pies and loaves to bread to a turkey, thermos and hope inspired artwork, gifts such as this touched the hearts of those on the receiving end.

T-shirts made by the Lauderdale County Junior Cattlemen's Association of Alabama to commemorate their trip to South Dakota to help families in the Union Center area in the summer of 2014. More than 30 young people stayed with area ranching families, providing free labor in addition to 21 donated yearling heifers.

T-shirts made by the Lauderdale County Junior Cattlemen’s Association of Alabama to commemorate their trip to South Dakota to help families in the Union Center area in the summer of 2014. More than 30 young people stayed with area ranching families, providing free labor in addition to 21 donated yearling heifers.

A first-calf heifer donated to a ranching family who lost livestock in the Atlas blizzard takes a peak outside with her newborn calf in the spring of 2014.

A first-calf heifer donated to a ranching family who lost livestock in the Atlas blizzard takes a peak outside with her newborn calf in the spring of 2014.

Heifers for South Dakota was started immediately following the storm, and had donated more than 1,000 bred heifers or cows to ranching families who lost livestock in the blizzard as of June, 2014. Many families also received livestock donations directly from friends or family in the months following the storm.

Heifers for South Dakota was started immediately following the storm, and had donated more than 1,000 bred heifers or cows to ranching families who lost livestock in the blizzard as of June, 2014. Many families also received livestock donations directly from friends or family in the months following the storm.

Yearling heifers who survived Atlas as calves, as well as a handful of donated heifers, enjoy the lush summer grass of 2014. Their generation will significantly help in rebuilding herds who suffered losses in the storm.

Yearling heifers who survived Atlas as calves, as well as a handful of donated heifers, enjoy the lush summer grass of 2014. Their generation will significantly help in rebuilding herds who suffered losses in the storm.

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One thought on “Ranchers Reflect on Community One Year After Atlas Blizzard

  1. It was great to see the ranching/agricultural community come together for this. Great things can happen in the wake of tragedy, and I think this was a true testament to that. Praying for an easier fall for everyone up north!

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