Fall storm damages crops, structures
By KAREN SCHWALLER
DICKINSON COUNTY – Torrential rains and high winds ripped through portions of northwest Iowa late afternoon last Thursday, resulting in roads and fields being flooded or damaged, and causing damage to structures in the area.
Mike Ehret, emergency management coordinator for Dickinson County, said rainfall amounts for this early fall storm the week of Sept. 16 amounted to 6 to 7 inches over three days of rainfall. The rain closed roads for a short time before they were reopened last Thursday morning.
The big story of the Sept. 20 storm was the wind, which blew some corn over in parts of northwest Iowa and damaged structures, including the offices of Green Plains Grain in Superior, an ethanol production facility. The roof of that building was damaged, along with windows being blown out and the top of the building shifting somewhat.
Ehret said the weather station at Superior recorded a wind gust of 99 miles per hour between 5:15 and 5:30 p.m.
“It had characteristics of what is called a ‘small spin-up tornado,'” said Ehret. “It’s not like your typical tornado … it’s a little circulation that will spin up on the front end of a storm system like we had (Thursday).”
He added, as the storm moved east, it began to “bow out,” a sign of strong winds.
“Superior was right on the nose of that bow,” he said. “They had some of the strongest winds, and based on some of the drone pictures (we took) and the wind speeds, the weather service is comfortable in classifying it as an EF-1 tornado.”
According to Ehret, the office of Green Plains Grain was the only part of the company’s property that was damaged. The plant itself was fine.
But just to the east of it, Maxyield Cooperative saw a grain trailer overturned, along with a TerraGator that had its storage compartment twisted off. A garage in town was destroyed and trees were downed.
“The storm was such a narrow scope,” Ehret said. “You can draw a line from the office to that (grain) trailer to the garage that was destroyed and even to the county line, where there was a small area of corn that was broken off halfway up. It lines up perfectly.”
In western Dickinson County, Lake Park saw wind gusts to 40 miles per hour. In Milford, in the southern part of the county, saw wind gusts of up to 59 miles per hour, resulting in trees being uprooted due to ground saturation from all the rain throughout the week.
Terril, in eastern Dickinson County, saw some crop damage along with the rubber membrane on the roof of the American Legion building torn away and landing on some power lines in the alley. That resulted in power outages in the area for a couple of hours.
Ehret said this kind of early fall storm is somewhat unusual, though they are seeing more patterns of it in the last five to eight years.
“As summer retreats and the warmth moves south we’re seeing these kinds of storms now and then,” he said, adding that three days of rain followed by quick rises in temperature (65 degrees to 85 degrees) and high humidity helped create this storm.
Joel De Jong, Iowa State University field agronomist for nine counties in northwest Iowa, said he’s never seen flooding as prevalent as it is in Le Mars, located in Plymouth County.
“It’s pretty swampy here, so that will create direct crop damage,” he said, adding that there are fields where corn tassels are not visible due to high water. “There are quite a few acres along rivers in northwest Iowa that will definitely have damage from this.”
He added on Friday that there were residents of the Le Mars area who couldn’t leave their home unless it’s by boat. Road closures were common throughout the area due to water being over the road, and the crops that are underwater were flooded earlier this year during the wet spring.
“The wind came with this storm, so the tops are out of a lot of corn plants, and there are some soybean fields that are completely submerged,” he said. “It gives us an indicator that we have some real (corn) stalk issues, and now it’s so muddy.”
The flooding brings about other issues in mature corn and soybeans, including wet ears, which can create environments for molds and other toxins.
“It’s not only stalk and ear shank integrity I’m worried about, but quality as well,” he said. “And when the quality goes down, the shelf life of the grain is reduced, too.”
The rainfall in DeJong’s district has been heavy all year, with Sibley ranking first in rainfall at 45.8 inches so far for the year-22 inches more than normal for this time of year. He said Sheldon has received 41.8 inches so far this year, 18 inches more than normal; Rock Rapids has received 41.7 inches. more than 19 inches over normal; and Primghar has received more than 14 inches above normal rainfall. Some areas east of this district received even more rainfall for the year.
“I don’t hear of 40-inch rainfalls in our region,” said De Jong. “They are incredible. And with this much of the year left to go, we still average 5 more inches of precipitation. That would put Sibley at over 50 inches of rain for the year. It could be miserable trying to get crops harvested this year.”
Paul Kassel, another ISU field agronomist who covers a variety of counties in northwest and north central Iowa, said the big question in his area is what will happen to soybeans underwater.
“I think this happened in 2004 and 2007, but both of those years things did dry out,” he said. “There was some areas where the water (drowned soybeans) for a long time and made them not harvestable (due to mold and decay), but those where the water drained out, there was not a lot of effect. It’s really too early to tell what will happen yet.”
In other parts of northwest Iowa, a bridge on O’Brien County Road B53, near Hartley, was destroyed by Thursday’s storm. Winds near Gruver in Emmet County neared 75 miles per hour, and winds in Gillette Grove in Clay County reached 65 miles per hour, with wind gusts in Spencer reaching 58 miles per hour.
Flood warnings remain in effect for the following rivers in northwest Iowa: Big Sioux River near Hawarden and Akron; Little Sioux River near Cherokee, Correctionville, Milford, Spencer and Linn Grove; Rock River at Rock Rapids and Rock Valley; Floyd River near Le Mars and Merrill; Ocheyedan River near Spencer and Everly, and Waterman Creek near Sutherland.
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