A look back at Oct. 4, 2013 | TSLN.com

A look back at Oct. 4, 2013

Compiled by Tri-State Livestock News editorial staff
Producers from North Dakota to Nebraska, Eastern Wyoming nearly to the Missouri River in South Dakota lost cattle, sheep, buffalo, horses and more in blizzard "Atlas," last Oct. 4. Tri-State Livestock News shares our sincere support and encouragement to those who endured and who now march bravely ahead to a new day in the livstock industry. You are our strength.

It’s difficult to realize another Oct. 4 can happen. It seems like we should have skipped over the date, like an elevator without a 13th floor, or declare it a national day-of-something. It feels like we should at least observe it, recognize it, like a birthday or anniversary or Pearl Harbor Day–a day the world changed. Granted, it was a pretty small part of the world, and for a lot of people, it didn’t change that much. But for those it did send spinning across the interstate (literally or figuratively), know we haven’t forgotten.

In her own words: Tressie Ellingson, Prairie City, S.D

by Tressie Ellingson

As we sat at home, unable to get to our sheep, we felt helpless. We knew there were going to be losses but we never expected to lose as many as we did. When we were finally able to get to the pasture we couldn’t believe what we saw. There were no words to explain how we felt. I of course cried and Brian and I just stood there holding each other for a long time. Tucker was 12 at the time and he was torn to shreds, kids just shouldn’t have to see that type of thing. As for Dave Nash, well again, words cannot express our gratitude. He was out for hours trying to get hay for the few sheep he could see. He was out in white out-conditions, far from home, in the middle of unfamiliar pasture land. His original report to us was that we lost about 20 head, but when we began to dig, the count rose much higher. Most of the sheep had drifted into a dugout that was full of water. Many were buried under the snow and remained there for several days. We managed to save a few from the drifts.

Tressie’s Facebook posts from the days following the October blizzard.

Oct. 7: Please pray for all the farmers/ranchers that lost livestock in this terrible storm. I cannot explain the feeling that runs through your body when you stand in the middle of your pasture and see that half of your herd had died. And I can only wonder what is under all the snow banks. Tears flow as I post. God bless!

Oct. 12: Well, after 8 days 7 hours and 45 min., we have power. Thank you to all of those who have offered us a place to stay, a hot meal, a generator, or a place to wash and dry our clothes. Your kind words and deeds have not gone unnoticed. Sometimes the words “Thank You” just don’t seem like enough. My heart swells with gratitude and I promise to pay it forward. To all of those still without power, my door is always open! Please feel free to call me for anything you may need. A extra special thank you to Dave Nash for getting to our sheep when we couldn’t. I felt so sorry for him having to relay the bad news to us. I am sure it was not easy. We have suffered a devastating loss to our sheep herd but our cattle seem to be fine. We will know more when we gather them up for market. Again thank you for all the kind words and prayers that were sent our way. Good Bless!

Oct. 19: Spent the day yesterday piling up our sheep that died in the storm. Had to pull most of them out of the water. Let’s hope that today I can help Brian with something a little less depressing. Tucker was a trooper, he was right there with us,working his tail off. This is just something a twelve year old boy just shouldn’t have to do or see.

Oct. 25: Yesterday Brian and I took a load of lambs to Newell. We were just south of Hoover when we came upon some remnants of storm Atlas, 20 or so dead cows lying in a pasture. Neither of us said a word but we both knew what the other was thinking. I found myself once again fighting back tears and trying to swallow past that all-too-familiar lump in my throat. We continued our trip in silence. We were almost to Newell when Brian said, “For once in my life I am not going to stress about what our calves weigh or how much they bring the day of market, I am just going to thank God that we still have them to sell because there are so many ranchers that are left with little or nothing.” As we were waiting in line to unload we saw two dump trucks go past hauling dead cattle, and I couldn’t help but wonder how those ranchers must have felt as they watched as their livelihoods were taken away in the back of a truck. Please continue to pray for all of those that have lost so much and may God give

Flatmoe Family puts faith in God after Atlas

By Amanda Radke

It was still storming when Brian and Gloria Flatmoe ventured out to check on their cattle during the Atlas blizzard last October. It wasn’t until then they realized the severity of the storm and the affect it would have on their family’s operation.

Brian and Gloria ranch with Brian’s parents, Harold and Lillian, as well as their four children, Sadie, Megan, Abby and Macyn. After Atlas, they were faced with the challenge of locating missing cows and discovering the dead ones, with many piling up and drowning in Thunder Butte Creek.

“It’s hard to even think about it still,” said Brian. “I never expected the storm was going to be as bad as it was. We still had pairs on pasture and were just getting ready to give our fall shots. We weren’t ready for something like this.”

To lose decades of hard work and genetics built up over a lifetime can break even the strongest of men, and Brian credits his children for helping to get him through.

“My oldest daughter was away at college, and she called home and told me, ‘It’s going to be okay, dad,’” Brian said.

Brian said his family’s strong faith also helped them during the difficult days, weeks and months following the blizzard.

“Without our faith in God, it would be pretty easy to give up,” he said. “At the time, a person just wondered what to do because you watched as your livelihood went down the drain, but the support we received was overwhelming.”

The Flatmoe family was a recipient of money from the Rancher’s Relief Fund, as well as heifers through the Heifers for South Dakota Program.

“We are so incredibly grateful to the people who stepped up and donated to these causes,” he said. “It gave us hope and a chance to regroup. We experienced so much generosity from friends, family, neighbors and even complete strangers. It was truly humbling and overwhelming.”

Brian said it wasn’t unusual to open the mailbox and receive anonymous gifts in the mail from folks who wanted to help.

“It’s humbling to know that people are thinking about you and care,” he said. “We are so indebted to people for their kindness. Simple words can’t express what we feel. We are so thankful.”

Elsheres leaned on faith, Faith after blizzard

by Karoline Rose

Romans 8:28: And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose.

For the Elsheres of Faith, S.D, “faith” is more than a name on the sign at the edge of town. It was the solid rock Andy and Donelle grabbed onto last October when the Atlas blizzard hit South Dakota. Andy explains, “Ranching is all we have ever known.”

Raising two children on a cow-calf operation has its up and downs, but as a family, they always lean on the Lord. “During the storm sometimes it was hard to remember but God is always in control,” says Andy. “While Atlas was devastating, it’s brought the community closer, everyone seemed to help everyone. Even if people lost cattle, they were helping a rancher who lost even more.”

Before the snow hit, there was rain and then sleet and then heavy, wet snow, so by the time it froze, the moisture was overwhelming. “It was the combination of snow, cold temperatures and wind that made the fatal conditions for the livestock,” says Andy. “It seemed as if the covered creeks and reservoirs are where the cattle got caught.”

The two feet of snow wasn’t the biggest battle the Elsheres fought. At their home place, the electricity was off for 12 days.

While the snow was piling up and the electricity was out, Andy and Donelle sought the Lord to get them through the challenging few weeks. “Even when the times got tough we had to let Him lead, remembering that the Lord is in control. We can’t always see God’s plan for us, but we know that He is working everything out for our good,” Andy says.

The word and attitude around the ranchers in Faith is positive as they approach the anniversary of the storm that seems to have left a mark on everyone. “The cattle market has been really good that past three to five months and as long as it stays high through October, everyone should be able to get their calves sold and help repair some of the financial damage from last year,” says Andy.

The donations poured in from all over to help the ranchers affected. While some of it was from far away and anonymous, the folks closer to home took care of their own. “We had a neighbor donate some hay to us and when we had our cows tested at the end of October we were getting a final count on our cows. And the man who preg tests for us donated his services to us. We were so thankful and humbled by the blessings from others.”

SDSU Santas after Atlas

When the Atlas blizzard hit western South Dakota, in October 2013, agricultural students at SDSU in Brookings were immediately concerned. They knew families were struggling to keep cattle alive, were without electricity in their homes, were helping neighbors and supporting family members during an emotional time. Many of the SDSU agricultural-enrolled students live in the region affected by the storm or had a college roommate from western South Dakota, or knew of a friend or classmate who was affected.

As a result, Alpha Zeta, an SDSU agriculture honor society, set the goal to help as many families as they could. The club decided to serve as “Secret Santa,” buying Christmas presents for the families and children, said B. Lynn Gordon, SDSU Alpha Zeta Faculty Advisor. “The students wanted to put a smile on the children’s faces with an anonymous surprise gift and take some burden off the parents during this difficult time.

Alpha Zeta coordinated the project, gathered names of families in need and conducted a fundraising project to raise funds to buy the gifts. Over $4,500 was raised by Alpha Zeta and 16 additional SDSU ag clubs/groups and additional donors. “Agricultural students across all majors came together to accomplish a common altruistic goal: to help thy neighbor,” said Loretta Bartosh, Alpha Zeta president.

Here are a few thank yous from the families who received the surprise gifts:

• “Thanks for the sling shot, the Jackrabbit cap and the movies. One of my favorite movies was in there.”

• “Thank you for the iron man mask and the remote control pickup. They are the coolest toys ever.”

• “Words cannot express how we appreciate your kindness. Thanks for the trucks and tractor for our son and the color pages and purse for our daughter. Thanks for making the holiday season a little brighter.”

• “Our family greatly appreciates the “Secret Santa Project” package we received. There is nothing better than seeing a sparkle in your child’s eyes as they open a gift. Though we have never met personally, please know that we have a very special place in our hearts for all who helped with this project.”

• “We wanted to let you all know how much we appreciate all the gifts we received from your, “Secret Santa” project. It’s very overwhelming to us to know how the people of South Dakota have come together to help others during this hard time. We will never forget the kindness shown and will pay it forward when the time comes.”

For more stories of the kindness and generosity that helped ranchers get through the year after Atlas, check out the Fall Cattle Journal in last week’s paper, or read it online at http://www.tsln.com.

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