Winter Storm Atlas: A Rancher's Perspective

Megan Brandsrud

 

On Oct. 4, Winter Storm Atlas hit western South Dakota after days of temperatures in the 70s. The storm delivered freezing rain followed by up to four feet of snow accumulation. Although South Dakota is no stranger to winter weather, this storm was unexpected and out of character for the time of the year.  

More than 22,000 homes and business were without power for several days. Ranchers in the region were particularly impacted by the storm, as they emerged from the storm to find many of their cattle had not survived.

The cattle had not yet grown their winter coats and ranchers didn't have enough warning to be able to move their herds to protected winter pastures. The freezing rain, heavy snow and 70-mile-per-hour winds proved deadly for tens of thousands of cattle. In the fall, ranchers sell their calves to market. Many of the ranchers had not yet sold their calves when the storm hit. The calves are gone, and so are the cows that were pregnant with next year's calves. It can take a rancher up to 20 years to fully develop his or her herd. Winter Storm Atlas caused ranchers to lose the cows they had been raising for many years, and they suffered a severe financial loss.

Working with Lutheran Social Services of South Dakota, Lutheran Disaster Response – U. S. has committed $150,000 to assist in spiritual and emotional care for those impacted by Winter Storm Atlas, with a promise of more funds as needed. Thanks to your undesignated gifts, Lutheran Disaster Response – U.S. was able to respond when the need arose.

Several weeks have passed since Winter Storm Atlas hit western South Dakota. Below is a brief testimony and video from Janet Jorgensen, a rancher who was affected by the storm. Her story describes the impact of the storm and the generosity her community received afterward.

"People may wonder why this happened. No one will ever know the reason, but we must remember that God is in control and is our strength. The parishioners of Indian Creek Lutheran Church - Meadow, SD and the folks in "West River" South Dakota are the recipients of love in many forms, whether prayers, livestock or donations. People's hearts are so generous. Indian Creek Lutheran Church is appreciative and is grateful to those who have given of themselves and their gifts.

This video was created to give the viewer insight to a ranch family's life. The ranchers tend to their livestock to prevent illness and to provide good nutrition and shelter, which reflects good stewardship for  the land and animals. It is with hopes that my journal and photos plus Kelly Hayworth's artistic gift will enhance the viewers' understanding.   

Although the Mega Blizzard caused a large loss, we need to keep the proper perspective. We lost no family member and that is what counts. God was a part of our lives and will continue to be."

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is a member of the ACT Alliance