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Storm damage wracks region

By Staff | Jun 19, 2014

Monday night’s downpour hit plenty of fields with more rain than they could absorb, including this one, which is farmed by Mike Schmeling, of Milford. Local rainfall reports varied from 2.5 to 6 inches.

Thunderstorms with heavy rain, large hail, high winds and straight line winds ripped through northwest Iowa on Monday afternoon and evening, leaving a path of crop and structural damage in its wake, along with road closures due to flooding.

Mike Ehret, emergency management director for Dickinson County, said winds were clocked repeatedly at 60 to 70 miles per hour, but some were estimated at 80 miles per hour.

“We had a couple different rounds of storms come through with a lot of rain in the first one and high winds in the second one,” he said, adding that there were many reports of trees and power lines down.

Rain amounts throughout Northwest Iowa ranged from 2.5 inches east of Albert City to 7.3 inches six miles south of Spencer. There was so much rain in southern Clay County that the road commissioner advised no travel because of flooding and the soft and unpredictable condition of the roads. Dickinson County also put out a no-travel advisory.

Ehret said the small eastern Dickinson County community of Superior received the most damage in his county, with eight newer power poles snapped off at the ground or halfway up, large trees pushed over and the north side of a building on the elevator grounds being pushed in, leaving tin and mangled beams behind. He said there were also two instances of trees falling onto homes there and at other places around the county as well.

Ehret attributed the damage he saw to straight line winds, given that the damage spanned the width of Dickinson County and it all pushed to the south. He said tornadic activity “twists things around and stirs things up.”

Jeff Bueltel farms near Superior and received wind and hail damage on 1,300 acres of crop land.

“It missed one 80 of beans, but just about everything else was damaged in one way or another,” he said.

Bueltel said his crops didn’t receive a lot of hail, but the 70- and 80-mile-per-hour winds that drove it wreaked havoc.

“We had up to quarter-sized hail,” he said.

Bueltel said the leaves are stripped off of much of his corn crop and some look like they are “mashed into the ground.” There are leaves on some of the corn, but he said it looks like “someone shredded it.”

Bueltel said the further east he goes the better his crops look, but he has a field near his home that he is considering replanting.

“It’s too late to replant corn, so I might just take what I get there, but it’s even getting late to replant beans-it’s almost the first of July already,” he said.

High winds took a barn down east of Melvin and also tore the roof of a hog barn off in that vicinity as well. Baseball-sized hail was reported west of Paullina in O’Brien County and in the Rossie, Peterson and Everly areas of Clay County.

“We had a lot of calls about quarter- and nickel-sized hail,” said Luther Lampert, assistant weather director at KICO Radio in Spencer. “Rain reports varied, but the highest one we got was 7.7 inches over by Ayrshire.”

Lampert said a tornado was reported on the ground one mile south of Laurens at 7:34 p.m., and touched down for 10 to 15 minutes.

Gary Johnson, who farms east of Webb, said he has a 10-acre area in one of his fields near his home that is flooded out.

“On one quarter I farm there are five huge lakes on it and it will be a total loss,” he said, adding that the water dumps into tile alone and doesn’t run off. “There’s got to be at least 35 to 40 acres there that is drowned out. It’s going to cost a lot of money.”

Johnson said he has never seen as much water over the road and in his fields as he saw with this storm. He has received nearly 13 inches of rain since June 7. He reported only a few pellets of hail in Monday night’s storm.

He said he might replant a few beans, but it depends on how fast the water goes down.

“I’m unhooking my planter on July 4,” he said.

Roger Wittrock farms west of Milford in Dickinson County. He has some corn lying flat due to straight line winds, along with a horse trailer that was picked up and tossed into a nearby soybean field, and had a machine shed door blow in. Nearly every window on a trailer home on his property were also blown out, and part of the roof on a chicken house was torn away. He also sustained heavy tree damage.

He has hopes for his damaged corn crop.

“We have water standing, but I’m hoping the corn will come back, being young like it is, he said. “It just makes you sick to look at this mess.”

Clay County Farm Service Executive Director Les Zobrist said most of the damage he’s heard of comes from the Sioux Rapids, Webb and Gillett Grove areas, where heavy rains took a toll on crops.

“That area received four to seven inches of rain from Saturday night through (Monday). On June 14 that area received two to three inches, and yesterday (June 16) they picked up another three to five inches of rain,” Zobrist said.

He added that he knows of fields near the Sioux Rapids and Webb areas that sustained heavy hail damage-with half of the field turned to black dirt and the other half literally not damaged at all. That area, he said, was hardest hit with heavy rain and high winds, with a little hail.

Zobrist said corn can stand in water for a couple of days without doing too much damage, but after that, it begins to damage the plant, reducing yield potential. He said he knows of some fields that have been flooded, some corn fields that are lying flat and a few acres that have been stripped off.

He said late corn replanting can still be an option, but reduced yields will probably be a factor, especially if farmers don’t experience a late fall harvest season. Soybeans can be replanted successfully until the first of July, but producers should not expect the usual yields with that, either.

Agronomist reports

In surveying the fields, Angie Rieck-Hinz, Iowa State University Extension field agronomist, said the impact of the slow-moving thunderstorms on Monday seemed to be localized rather than widespread. Standing water and ponding pose the actual threat since no real wind damage was reported, she said.

Reick-Hinz is the field agronomist for Calhoun, Cerro Gordo, Franklin, Hamilton, Hardin, Humboldt, Webster, Worth and Wright counties.

Rain totals ranged anywhere from 1 1/2 to 6 inches; in the last three to four days some places have seen up to 8 inches of rain.

Whether the crops will recover will depend on how long the water remains and how fast it drains off.

“Having drowned out spots is not uncommon for Iowa this time of year,” she said. “My concern is whatever additional rainfall we get in the coming days will compound the problem.”

At this point, there is not a lot people can do except watch and see.

“I saw flattened fields around Hardy, Rutland and Bode, but it will probably recover and upright itself.”

Farmers usually plan for a certain amount of ponding and washed out crops, she said.

Rural power outage

At the height of the storm, the Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives showed about 1,000 customers were without power statewide, said Regi Goodale, director of regulatory affairs.

About 300 were still without power late Tuesday morning, he said.

The Franklin Rural Electric Coop saw significant damage

Goodale said extra employees from other counties were sent to help the Franklin Rural Electric Coop.

“They had a stretch of line that was underbuilt on some MidAmerican transmission that went down. We’re working on that,” he said.

Reports from individual counties include:

  • Wright County

High winds and a possible tornado damaged both property and trees in Wright County Monday evening as storms rolled through the area.

Wright County Emergency Management Coordinator Jim Lester said most of the damage happened in rural areas northeast of Woolstock and northeast of Belmond.

“There are trees down and we had some outbuildings, machine sheds and barns that were destroyed at some of the locations,” Lester said. “There’s also some vehicles that have been damaged.”

Nobody was hurt during the storm, which went on from 7-10 p.m.

Parts of Clarion and Eagle Grove also saw trees that had been knocked down by wind.

Lester didn’t have a timeline for when cost estimates for damage would be available.

  • Pocahontas County

Two tornadoes were spotted in Pocahontas County Monday.

One tornado was seen near Plover between 5-6 p.m., and another was reported south of Laurens between 7-8 p.m.

“They popped right out of the clouds, went down briefly and popped right back up,” Sid Enockson, communications supervisor for the Pocahontas County sheriff’s office, said.

Both were spotted by law enforcement.

Although there were two tornadoes, Enockson said they damage that was caused appears to be “very minor.”

“We didn’t get any damage from the storms other than a lot of rain,” he said. “We had a lot of flooding in low-lying areas, basements and some street flooding.”

He added that there were many small branches that were blown off of trees.

  • Webster County

There was little to no major damage reported to Webster County officials following Monday night’s storms.

Tony Jorgensen, Webster County Emergency Management Coordinator, said the only incident that had been reported to him was a slight gravel washing in Dayton.

He did say that a local storm spotter reported a total of 3.26 inches of rainfall north of Fort Dodge.

Sheriff Jim Stubbs said that rain has caused the rivers and creeks to rise, but other than that he said the county didn’t receive any damage.

“I think we were very fortunate,” he said. “We skirted some of the really severe weather.”

  • Hamilton County

Despite the storms that passed through the area Monday, Hamilton County officials did not receive any reports of storm damage.

Phil Queen, Hamilton County Emergency Management Coordinator, did say the county received plenty of rain.

“We had heavy rains and high winds,” he said. “If there was damage, nobody has reported it to myself or the dispatch center.”

  • Calhoun County

In Calhoun County, both Manson and Rockwell City reported more than 3 inches of rain, said Jody Simpson, communications director for the Calhoun County Sheriff’s Department.

The county responded to a large tree down on N37, Simpson said. Limbs also fell into power lines, leading to temporary outages. There were no reports of major storm damage, houses or farm buildings damaged, and there were no tornados.

  • Humboldt County

Humboldt County Sheriff Dean Kruger said the county suffered quite a bit of wind damage, including downed trees and power lines, along with significant water damage.

Both Kruger and one of his deputies reported seeing a tornado.

“Bode got hit pretty hard,” Kruger said. “Of course, just about every community got hit hard.”

In Bode, a tree fell on a car, and north of town, a young woman tried to drive through water across the road “and the car was sucked into the ditch,” he said.

The woman was OK, but the car had to be towed.

As of Tuesday morning, Kruger said there were no reports of structural damage to barns or outbuildings.

Peter Kaspari, Dawn Bliss and Joe Sutter contributed to this report.

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