2019 JAN FEB DOWN COUNTRY ROADS MAGAZINE DCR Jan.Feb.2019 web - Page 25

By­ late­ January,­ ranchers­ and townspeople,­plus­local­and­state­au- thorities,­ were­ overwhelmed­ in­ their ability­to­combat­what­had­become­the third­significant­blizzard­of­the­month. President­Harry­Truman­declared­the region­a­major­disaster­area,­triggering the­eventual­expenditure­of­$700,000 in­ federal­ money.­Active­ duty­Army troops,­ Navy­ communications­ units plus­contractors­were­pressed­into­bliz- zard­duty.­An­earlier­effort­by­Air­Na- tional­ Guard­ and­ Air­ Force­ units­ to drop­ hay­ and­ supplemental­ feed­ to livestock­was­extended­for­the­dura- tion. From­ the­ end­ of­ January­ until March­15,­Operation­Snowbound­in- volved­ 6,200­ people­ under­ the­ com- mand­ of­ Maj.­ Gen.­ Lewis­ Pick,­ the same­general­of­Missouri­River­dam- building­fame.­­The­joint­service/civil- ian/contractor­ campaign­ put­ 1,700 pieces­ of­ snow-pushing­ equipment across­an­area­of­193,000­square­miles. Corps­of­Engineers­scorekeepers­fur- ther­noted­that­workers­opened­more than­ 115,000­ miles­ of­ roads,­ sprung nearly­ a­ quarter-million­ snowbound people­and­fed­more­than­four­million head­of­livestock. To­ the­ federal­ tally,­ add­ similarly impressive­ numbers­ from­ state­ and local­government­agencies­as­the­re- gion­ came­ together­ to­ cope­ with­ the storms­and­conduct­rescue­and­relief efforts.­County­Extension­agents­and stockmen­played­important­coordinat- ing­roles,­especially­when­outsiders­ar- rived­and­needed­guides­to­safely­and efficiently­put­people­and­equipment where­it­was­needed­most. Retired­ Sturgis­ resident­ DeWayne Hayes­states­the­obvious:­“We­didn’t know­what­four-wheel­drive­was.”­­ In­the­late­’40s,­four-wheel­drive­ve- hicles­were­a­wistful­recollection­for war­veterans­who­had­driven­Jeeps,­but otherwise­ barely­ visible­ across­ the High­Plains.­Then­19­and­living­in­the center­of­town,­DeWayne­missed­work at­the­Fort­Meade­VA­hospital­after­the first­day­of­the­storm.­Winter­mobility was­based­on­walking,­horses­(when conditions­permitted)­and­rear-wheel- drive­ vehicles­ with­ chains­ or­ snow tires.­Or…­simply­staying­put. Staying­put­wasn’t­an­option­for­De- Wayne’s­ older,­ married­ sister­ who lived­on­a­ranch­eight­miles­northwest of­ Union­ Center.­ Lucille­ was­ very Nebraska panhandle rancher Don Burrows ventured outdoors following the first January blizzard with his daughters Donna and Sheri. They are exploring a drift that has nearly covered the mature trees in their shelter belt. [Photo­cour- tesy­of­Connie­Thornton,­Rapid­City] DOWN COUNTRY ROADS 25