Powder River Examiner -

Joe Stuver 

2018 plays out like a Sergio Leone Movie


December 20, 2018

By Joe Stuver

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly come to mind when reviewing the Year of Our Lord 2018.

The success or failure of a year in our ranching community is usually predicated by the previous year. 2017 was simply ugly. There was little moisture in the crucial growing months, and there was little if any dryland hay.

That set up a disastrous winter and early spring. Bitter cold temperatures left most ranchers taxed fiscally and physically. Load after load of expensive hay came in, and herds were culled to try and stay ahead of the hay. Plus, there was the considerable expense in fuel and wear and tear while plowing out roads and feed grounds, often on a daily basis along with weather factors.

The unseasonal cold and wet caused widespread calf and lamb losses, as ranchers were worn ever more thin, struggling to keep their newborn babies alive. Adding to those critical losses was the fact that many new born calves suffered broken bones, from being stepped on by their mommas, with the calving spaces limited by deep snow drifts. Stress-related sicknesses took even more young livestock. Then the awful wind blew roads and calving grounds back in, in short order.

If another drought would have followed, it would have spelled complete disaster. As it turned out, the surviving young stock grew huge and fat over the rest of their season from birth to market.

The resources of the Town of Broadus, Powder River County and Montana Highway Department were also heavily taxed in trying to remove snow from streets and roads.

This is an ag community, and when our ranchers suffer, their plight trickles quickly down quickly to local business. Most in town folks have family in the ag industry, and many business employees are ranchers. All of us have family, and most certainly wonderful friends, in our rural areas.

But as the spring progressed, the wet weather patterns which brought so much snow, now brought life-giving rain, and along with the moisture, new hope.

Ranchers were able to unlimber their haying equipment, which had sat mostly idle last year and even the year before. They gleefully set about putting up as much hay as possible. Many dry land outfits were even able to put up a coveted second cutting. Irrigated hay was splendid!

A few folks with hay down, sadly lost their crops due to June rains.

Looking at weather totals for the year, there is no snowfall amounts recorded at the Broadus Sheriff’s NWS Station, but it was “estimated” at some 60 inches.

The grand total for Broadus in 2018, as of December 17: 19.70 inches!

Here are reports from other NSW stations around the area: (note: there are huge differences in precipitation at different stations, but remember, amounts can vary hugely within a few miles, or a few hundred yards)


Their total moisture for the year showed 13.94 inches, which is not bad on a “normal” year, but sucked with so much bounty around them.

Mizpah NNW:

January with the files not available for the last 12 days of the month the mean average temps were 23.7 over minus 6.6 with .36 in moisture. New Years Day was terrible, minus 12 over -41. The next day the temps warmed to 20, but that night it was back to -30;

February, was missing all files;

Total, 17.05 inches, without February factoring in.

Moorhead 9NE:

Like everywhere else, January’s temperatures and snowfall amounts were horrible, setting the stage for worse to come. The mean daytime high was 33.4, and the low, 9.1, with .30 inch of moisture. New Year’s Day and night was again the coldest of the month, minus 1 over minus -29.

Total precip, 13.72 inches.

Sonnette 7SW:

The Sonnette Country south and north looked as good as any year in memory as the spring and summer progressed. Earlier, not so much, with deep snow and bitter cold beginning.

Their year’s total to date: 16.61 inches.

Now, the promise of another year awaits, as we join in wishing for ample moisture, wonderful crops, and record cattle, sheep and grain prices.


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