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Counting our blessings after the blizzard

"I think this one could have been way worse, for a number of reasons."

Cows and calves huddle around a hay bale feeder and a feed bunk as snow whips through the air.
Forecasts calling for a massive snow gave ranchers a chance to get their cattle to protection or at least into the best possible situation. That's one of the things Jenny Schlecht is thankful for following a historic April 2022 blizzard. Photo taken April 12, 2022, near Medina, North Dakota.
Jenny Schlecht / Agweek
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How about this weather?

Yeah, I'm sure you've heard plenty about the big April blizzard . If you were in the area hit — most of North Dakota with portions of Montana, South Dakota, Minnesota and Canada thrown in — you may be tired of hearing about it. But more than likely, you're more tired of dealing with it.

As I'm writing this, nearly a week has passed since the storm began, and we're nowhere near back to where we were . We have plenty of snow that seems likely to stick around. The corrals are muddy, soupy messes, which certainly won't improve if we receive the rain in the forecast. The temperatures remain far below normal for this time of year, so we're still dealing with cold calves.

But all in all, I think we're feeling pretty lucky at our place for how things have turned out. We lost a calf, which is never good. But the rest are alive and seem quite happy kicking up their heels in the mess. The humans here made it through relatively unscathed, other than being stressed and tired. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of those lost in the storm.

This was my first really big North Dakota spring storm. I grew up in Montana, so my knowledge of the 1997 April storm is secondhand, and I was nowhere near alive for 1966. But knowing what I know about those storms, I think this one could have been way worse for us, for a number of reasons.

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Jenny Schlecht
Jenny Schlecht

First, we never lost power. In 1997, my husband's family relied on generators for five days, even getting to the point of siphoning fuel from vehicles to keep the generators going. I don't know whether the electricity staying on this time around was due to technological improvements, a storm with less rain and ice, or just luck, but whatever the case, I'm glad. I'm also thankful for the linemen who no doubt were standing by in case they needed to deal with snapped poles and downed wires.

Second, we knew this was coming. Meteorologists take a lot of grief because their forecasts aren't perfect. But they're scientists and can only tell us what they see in their models and what might happen. And if they didn't, we would have been a lot worse off. They stayed calm, gave the facts and tried to keep us all safe.

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"The cool, dreary May meant that we kept pushing back our planting until it was a good week or two past the point we would have liked to have seeds and plants in the ground. But the weather warmed up, and we certainly haven't been dealing with drought."

The advanced notice meant I was able to make a grocery run to pick up a few extra items in case we couldn't leave home for awhile. We also had time to make a plan for where to put cows and calves so that they would stay as safe as possible.

Third, I'm thankful for the road crews who were ready to roll when the storm slowed or stopped so that everyone could get back to business. Their jobs are made infinitely harder by the people who didn't heed the orders to stay off the roads, but they still got everything cleaned up to an extent that travel could resume. And they put themselves at risk to get people where they needed to go in emergencies.

Which reminds me — if we get another storm like this, stay home. Don't try to drive across town or drive around barricades to get on the interstate or take back roads you don't know. If it's a true emergency, call for help. Otherwise, it's unlikely what you have to do is that important, and it certainly isn't more important than the lives of the people you'd be putting at risk when you inevitably need to get rescued.

Finally, though we're fighting with the excess moisture now, I am glad it should replenish the soil and jump start the pastures after last year's drought.

So, while I hope we don't have to go through another storm like this anytime soon (or anytime, if I'm being unrealistic), I remain thankful for the advancements that have made things like this something to deal with rather than something that destroys us.

Jenny Schlecht is Agweek's editor. She lives on a farm and ranch in Medina, North Dakota, with her husband and two daughters. She can be reached at jschlecht@agweek.com or 701-595-0425.

Opinion by Jenny Schlecht
Jenny Schlecht is the editor of Agweek and Sugarbeet Grower Magazine. She lives on a farm and ranch near Medina, North Dakota, with her husband and two daughters. You can reach her at jschlecht@agweek.com or 701-595-0425.
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