Major Snowstorm to Hit U.S. Cattle Herds at Worst Possible Time

March 29, 2016 11:18 AM

Snow is on the way for Wyoming, and it’s coming at the wrong time of year for ranchers.

The hardest-hit areas will get as much as 20 inches (51 centimeters), said Chris Hattings, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Riverton, Wyoming. Casper could get 18 inches before the storm ends Wednesday. Blizzard watches were posted for several counties in the central and eastern parts of the state.

“In the higher elevations, way, way up there where nobody lives, some areas could see as much as three feet,” Hattings said.

While not unusual, the snow is coming at a particularly bad time for farmers because newborn calves are vulnerable to the cold and deep snow, the weather service said. Although Wyoming will take the brunt of the system, parts of Montana and South Dakota could end up with six inches or more.

The risks for the calves will continue right through Wednesday. The weather service is also warning drivers that mountain passes on Interstates 80, 90 and 25 could be covered with snow. Visibility could be less than one quarter of a mile.

“We are starting to gin up a pretty good snowstorm,” said Richard Bann, a meteorologist with the U.S. Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland.

Big Deal

With the snow, winds could reach 30 miles (50 kilometers) per hour with gusts up to 50 mph, Bann said. “It’s obviously going to be a big deal.”

The storm will drift north into Canada later this week, sparing the eastern U.S. There may be flurries in Toronto to end the week, though most of the precipitation that falls there will come as rain, according to Environment Canada.

While the snow is severe, it isn’t a sign that spring has been put on hold; actually it could be just the opposite.

“March and April are when we get our biggest snows in Wyoming,” Hattings said.

The reason is it is usually too cold in January and February for the air to carry a lot of moisture. As the weather warms up, there is more moisture in the air “so we get bigger snowfalls,” Hattings said.

A blizzard as a sign of spring? We’ll take a robin eating worms on the lawn.

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