An unusually early and enormous snowstorm over the weekend killed as many as 75,000 cattle in South Dakota, ravaging the state’s $7 billion industry.
The blizzard set snowfall records for the entire month of October in a mere three days, state and industry officials said.
Across the state, snow totals averaged – averaged! – 30 inches (76 cm). Some isolated areas recorded almost 5 feet (140 cm), The Weather Channel reported. That’s shoulder-height-deep for most people.
It’s so early in the season that the animals hadn’t yet grown their heavier winter coats, leaving them unprotected.
“The cattle were soaked to the bone,” said Silvia Christen, executive director of the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association. “Then the wind and really heavy snow started — it just clung to them and weighed them down.”
“Many of them just dropped where they were walking,” she said, adding that at least 5 percent of the roughly 1.2 million cattle in the western third of South Dakota likely perished.
A trail of carcasses left a gruesome sight, said Martha Wierzbicki, emergency management director for Butte County, in the northwestern corner of the state.
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