The arrival of spring calving season across western South Dakota is renewing hope for ranchers still reeling from last October’s blizzard.
The storm, dubbed “Atlas” by The Weather Channel, took a huge toll on ranchers, especially those in the western half of the state. The two-day storm first brought rain before dumping up to 4 feet of snow in some places. Calves due to be sold were killed, as were cows that would have birthday this year’s calves.
In the end, tens of thousands of cattle died in the storm, killing up to 50 percent herds in some cases.
Early estimates put the cost of the blizzard to the area economy at upwards of $1.7 billion. Donations from across the country quickly poured in, with ranchers from other states offering to donate hundreds of bred cattle and heifer calves to their South Dakota brethren.
Now, in the wake of the disaster, South Dakota ranchers are picking up the pieces.
"There's nothing you can do differently," rancher Chuck O'Connor told the Associated Press. "Just because I had a loss doesn't mean I'm going to quit."
Ranchers are now finding renewed hope as spring calving season is helping to contribute to their herds’ recovery.
This recovery could take years, especially for those ranchers who lost high percentages of their herds. But even so, ranchers like Larry Stomprud, aren’t forgetting those who helped rebuild herds and hope.
"The storm doesn't come without its blessings," he said. "We have really genuinely found out how generous people are. It kind of renewed our faith in mankind."