Between Oct. 3–5, 2013, an unusually early blizzard smothered northeastern Wyoming and western South Dakota with wet, heavy snow, killing tens of thousands of cattle.
The snow was accompanied by rain, hail, thunderstorms and even tornadoes in some areas. Cattle, which had not yet grown the thick winter coats that allow them survive winters, were grazing in unprotected summer pastures when the storm hit.
Many animals simply froze to death or suffocated after being soaked by freezing rain and then buried by snow. About 15 percent to 20 percent of South Dakota’s cattle may have been killed, according to the South Dakota Growers Association. Warmer weather and rain following the blizzard complicated cleanup efforts, melting much of the snow and leaving farms coated with so much mud that fields and roads were impassable for days.
Image courtesy of NASA.