Today is Thursday, October 31, 2013.
At this time last year, most of South Dakota was experiencing either Severe Drought or Exceptional Drought, the two highest categories of drought. Late last April and early in May, we had ice storms and blizzards that downgraded our drought conditions all over the state, but the west was still considerably drier than eastern South Dakota.
We did have a more or less normal amount of rain this summer, and we were blessed with grass that was actually green all summer. It has only recently begun to turn brown, a normal process in the fall. However, we remained in a drought condition all summer, because we just couldn’t seem to catch up.
Once again, it appears that a blizzard has come to our rescue. Some rescue, huh! The blizzard of October 2013 was one for the record books. It was preceded by rain, and the ranchers didn’t have time to get their herds to safer areas to wait out the storm. The result was that the cows’ hooves got stuck in the mud, and were covered by freezing rain. They had not yet grown their “winter coats,” which meant that they basically froze to death in the pastures, soaked by the freezing rain and buried in five feet of snow. It is estimated that 15-20% of the cattle in South Dakota were killed in the storm. Naturally, the government was shut down during the storm, courtesy of the Tea Party Republicans and their puppet, Speaker of the House, John Boehner, so the ranchers have had to wait for emergency assistance from the government. (Some of them did lose up to half their herds, but I have to say that the ranchers are by and large a pretty wealthy bunch here in South Dakota, and they will get by. I feel much sorrier for the cows than for the ranchers.)
Meanwhile, our one representative in the House of Representatives, Kristi Noem, a Republican, is in the unenviable position of having to speak out of two sides of her mouth. Like a lot of others on the Right, she believes that the U.S. taxpayers are paying way too much money in federal handouts, but she wants the U.S. government to give more money – on a permanent basis – to the ranchers. (That’s politics for ya.)
Last May I wrote a blog entry about the ice storm we had in April and the snowstorm we had in early May. In February, the majority of the state was in a drought, and much of the state was in Exceptional Drought. After the storms, the drought subsided considerably. If you click on the link to my earlier blog and scroll down a bit, you can see maps from February and May 2013, before and after the big snow and ice storms. Below, here are two more maps, from late September and the newest one for October – before and after the big blizzard. As you can see, the area around Rapid City is just fine now, after having been dumped with five feet of snow. Eastern South Dakota is still “abnormally dry,” which is about par for the course for this state, as anything less than the “average” amount of precipitation will lead to drought in some form. That’s how little rain we get here.
Relief from the drought – that’s the one good thing we got from the blizzard.