Residents in northwest Nebraska are working to clean up fallen trees and dead cattle left in the wake of a massive snowstorm, while state officials implored them to keep detailed records so they might qualify for government assistance.
Lt. Gov. Lavon Heidemann and a state emergency team met with local officials in Chadron, Crawford and Harrison. Heidemann, a longtime farmer, said he was surprised by the number of the livestock deaths, which was expected to rise into the thousands.
"It was worse than I thought," Heidemann said in an interview. The storm "just took tree after tree after tree. What I wasn't prepared for was the loss of livestock. They showed me pictures of animal after animal — piles of them — that they're going to have to deal with. There's snow still out there, and as it melts, I'm sure they're going to be finding even more."
Heidemann, who oversees Nebraska's emergency services, stressed the importance of keeping detailed receipts of storm cleanup expenses.
The state offers partial reimbursement to communities once their expenses rise beyond a certain point, but Heidemann said it isn't clear whether the area will qualify for federal aid. State officials can't get their questions answered because of the federal government's partial shutdown, he said.
At least 90 percent of the properties in Chadron saw some type of damage, mostly to trees that collapsed under wet, heavy snow and wind, said city manager Wayne Anderson.
The wind-whipped storm was part of a massive front that dumped up to several feet of snow on the western Plains, and caused tornadoes in eastern Nebraska, South Dakota and Iowa.
Officials in Nebraska said there was heavy tree damage along the Highway 20 corridor between Rushville and Harrison. Chadron and Crawford were especially hard-hit, and officials say Chadron received 10 inches of snow. In northeast Nebraska, tornadoes caused millions in damage to a business district in Wayne and injured 15.