A local relief fund has been set up for northwestern Nebraska ranches and other businesses at the Chadron Community Foundation.
"Livestock losses on the plains of Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming are estimated to be between 60,000 and 100,000 head," Sen. Al Davis said Thursday. "There are also animals that will sicken and die as time goes on which will add to these numbers.”
Donations can be sent to the Cattlemen Relief Fund, P.O. Box 1125, Chadron, NE 69337.
"The effects of these losses will be felt for years," Davis said. "The storm took calves and cows that would have delivered calves next year."
Davis said some cows managed to survive by eating pine needles because the grass was covered, which will cause them to abort the calves they are carrying.
The heavy, wet snow and high winds also downed countless trees and power lines and damaged buildings and vehicles.
The agricultural losses will hurt the region's economy, which was also hard hit by wildfires last year. Ranchers are struggling with immediate economic and emotional pain and will soon face the grim challenge of disposing of the carcasses.
Because of gridlock in Washington, D.C., the federal government is ill-equipped to offer immediate assistance, so it will be especially important for ranchers to carefully document their losses, Davis said. If good records are not kept, eligibility for indemnity funds will be jeopardized should such funds become available.
Davis expressed his appreciation to Nebraska Lt. Gov. Lavon Heidemann and Al Berndt, assistant director of the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency, for their visit Tuesday to the storm damaged area.
But, he said awareness of the scope of the losses needs to be heightened throughout Nebraska and the nation because continued assistance for this area will be needed for some time to come.
Individuals who would like mental health support services to help cope with the aftermath of the disaster should contact the state of Nebraska's Behavioral Health Region I office in Scottsbluff at 308-635-3173, Crossroads Resources in Chadron at 308-432-3920, or Western Community Health Resources in Chadron at 308-432-8979 or Crawford at 308-665-1770, Davis said.