June 28, 2008

Wind Damage at the Feedlot

Wind starts to blow - click for video
A nasty storm with winds I estimate at about 90 mph came up very suddenly yesterday afternoon. It only lasted a few minutes, but severely damaged crops, trees, power lines, and some buildings in a swath extending from Fremont, Nebraska, through Omaha and on into Iowa. The storm killed two young folks in Council Bluffs just across the Missouri River from Omaha. A tree crushed the car they were using to get out of the wind driven rain.

The old feeder was tending his garden yesterday when the sirens in nearby towns went off. There was a dark cloud off to the west, but it looked like just an ordinary summer thunderstorm. Seeing no danger, I kept pulling weeds, figuring that whoever has their finger on the storm siren button was jumpy after a tornado tore through Omaha earlier this month with no sirens sounding beforehand.

I should have paid attention. The wind, rain and small hail sneaked up behind me. By the time I got to the house I was as wet as if I'd fallen into a lake. I saw some shingles, plywood and big lengths of irrigation pipe flying through the air. My camera was by the front door because I had planned to take a picture of the corn here to prove to my friends in Northwest Iowa that it was almost 6 feet tall already. I went out and snapped the picture above, and captured this short video clip of the wind beating up on the corn. As soon as I got back inside, the wind got worse and the electricity went off.

Today, I took these photos:

The corn this morning - quite a bit of it is down
I haven't been out to look at other fields, but I heard a report on the radio of corn being down in between Valley and Omaha. This sort of damage is depressing. Corn is pretty tough, and will often stand up again after the wind lays it down. It can still produce if the stalks break above ears that have already set. But it won't make anything but silage when the stalks are snapped off near the ground like these:

Update: From Fox 42 News:
Roughly 100,000 acres of farmland in Douglas, Saunders and Dodge counties was either shredded or flattened.

It was going to be a great year for farmers north of Elkhorn. Instead, the storm leveled cornfields, corn that was 6 feet tall.
The longer term economic effects of this crop damage will be worse than the downed trees and power outages in town. Nebraskans tend to forget that most of the wealth of our state grows out of the ground.

Some of this land can be replanted to soybeans, and some of the damage is covered by insurance. It costs money to replant, and insurance payouts aren't manna from heaven. The storm's cost to agriculture can't be made to go away.

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