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Blizzard Death Toll Climbs to 17

October 29, 1997

DENVER (AP) _ Authorities on Tuesday raced to feed thousands of hungry cattle stranded in snowdrifts left over from a weekend blizzard and warned of serious losses as ranchers began to count how many cattle died in the storm.

Anthony Brungardt said he may have lost up to half of his herd of 350 cattle.

``Everywhere I drive, there’s dead cattle in fences. I think we’ve pulled just over 30 ear tags today. Another 40 are buried in a ravine,″ said Brungardt, 32, a Kansas native who has ranched in southeastern Colorado for four years.

The death toll from the snowstorm climbed to 17 in seven states, as Nebraska officials said a 17-year-old boy’s snow-covered body was found in Overton on Sunday. Brian Witmer’s autopsy said he died of hypothermia.

In Colorado, rescuers continued searching for 75-year-old Mae Hunter, whose abandoned car was found Sunday amid high snowdrifts.

The storm dumped up to 8 inches of snow on parts of Michigan Monday before it blew into Canada. Over the weekend, Colorado got nearly 4 1/2 feet and Nebraska received 23 inches.

In Nebraska, about 22,000 customers were still without electricity Tuesday and about 10,000 had no phone service. At the peak of the storm, about 150,000 had no power.

``There’s been quite a sense of adventure but I think it’s getting a bit old for our guests,″ said Jim Nolan, who invited friends without electricity to stay in his Omaha home.

Six adults and seven children _ ranging in age from 2 months to 7 years _ filled the three-bedroom house. ``When you have than many people, there are a lot of shoes.″

In Iowa, Dana Andersen was one of an estimated 5,000 people in the Des Moines area still without electricity after more than 6 inches of wet, heavy snow fell on the city Sunday. She was worried about the food rotting in her refrigerator.

``It’s gross, I’m sure,″ she said Tuesday. ``Of course it’s dark enough, so I wouldn’t be able to see anything, so this would be the time to deal with it.″

Robert McLavey, deputy commissioner of the state’s agricultural department, said the Farm Service Agency is assessing how many cattle died in the storm. The National Cattlemen’s Association in Denver said 2,400 died in Kansas alone.

``We’re probably looking at the worst (storm livestock losses) in recent history,″ McLavey said. ``Everyone thought it was just going to be one of those good winter storms.″

The National Guard used six helicopters to drop hay into southeastern Colorado fields to feed up to 8,000 stranded cattle. Authorities hoped they would return Wednesday to drop more hay.

``We’re trying to get the ones belly-deep in snow,″ Prowers County Commissioner Leroy Mauch said. ``The cattle are getting tired. They’ve been waiting around for four days. It’s starting to put a strain on them.″

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