Many residents/ranchers/livestock in Eastern Wyoming and the Nebraska Panhandle were affected by the storms that came through the area Nov. 26 and again from Thursday afternoon through early Sunday morning (Nov. 29-Dec.1).
The power went out between 8:30-9 a.m. on Saturday morning at McClun’s Lazy JM Ranch, near Veteran, Wyoming, as well as at the homes and businesses of other residents.
“We were not prepared for being without power for that long, nor had we ever had a reason to be,” said Kody McClun of McClun’s Lazy JM Ranch. “All the cattle tanks (and houses) are on electric wells.”
They had enough water storage capacity to hold the cattle over until Sunday morning, but no longer, and they had no water to their homes.
Their furnaces are also electric, so they had no heat.
“We used a small generator to run space heaters, switching between the heaters, the refrigerator and the microwave,” McClun said. “It was only about 50 degrees in the house.”
They used power from the generator to run only what they needed and tried not to overload it.
“We had a group of 250 head of cattle on corn stalks, and they were snow covered, so they had no feed,” he said. “On Thanksgiving we were able to get in, so we were able to feed with no problem. We fed extra because we knew there was a chance we might not be able to get to them, and after the wind event, we couldn’t get to the cattle.”
The cattle had nothing to eat but snow until after the wind stopped blowing Sunday morning.
Another problem they ran into was getting tractors started without electricity to power the engine heaters so they will start in cold weather. They were able to use ether, along with propane heat and battery power to warm the engines, “we blew hot air into the engine to get the feed truck to start,” McClun said.
They were able to use their dozer tractor and plow themselves out, get to each other and then to the cattle.
“We keep the blade on the tractor in the winter so we can get to each other and to the cattle,” he said.
“It was getting pretty dire at the end of day two,” McClun continued. “All the tanks were dry, and between us and the neighbors, we had over one thousand head of cattle in the feedlot and on the pasture ground. It was getting serious.”
The McCluns and their neighbors worked together on wiring up a generator to attempt to get water to the cattle, but they didn’t have all the supplies on hand they needed to make it work.
“We were trying to get something to work, and talking to Wyrulec,” he said.
Wyrulec Co. was going to bring a generator if they were unable to get the power on for them Sunday, so they could get water to the thirsty livestock.
“They brought power in from a different direction to try to get us going,” McClun said. “It will either work or it won’t, they told us. We still had no power at dark. We were going on 33 hours without power.”
Power was restored to the area around 6 p.m. on Sunday.
“The floats on the tanks had frozen so we had to go around and get them working,” he said. “one of the neighbors fried a well, so had to trail their cattle, through the snowdrifts about a mile. Fall cows with calves. Getting stuck. It’s certainly been an eye opener.”
Fortunately, McCluns lost no livestock in the storm.
“We’re going to be more prepared for something like this in the future,” McClun said. “It caught us off-guard. We have plenty of struggles, we’re sure not used to going without electricity.”
“I’m already tired of winter and it’s not even technically winter yet,” McClun said.