Just as wheat harvest was getting started two severe storms blew through Box Butte County on Friday, July 9. The storms traveled from the north west to the south east. The first storm began around 5 p.m. and brought large hail that continued to get bigger the farther south it traveled. The second round hit around 10 p.m. and carried smaller sized hail but winds that reached as high as 90 mph.
Meteorologist Matthew Brothers with the Cheyenne Weather Service said he hung around the station keeping an eye on the systems coming through Box Butte County on Friday evening.
“The first storm was actually a series of microbursts so the damage reported was very sporadic,” Brothers said.
“There were reports of funnel clouds but nothing was reported as touching down,” he noted. “South of Alliance we had a report of hail measuring nearly 5 inches in diameter. The storm continued to lose momentum after that before dissipating near North Platte.”
Box Butte County Extension Crop System Educator John Thomas drove around on Monday to assess the damage.
“As I drove from Alliance north through some cropping areas where I have some studies things were dinged up a bit by hail but it didn’t look to bad,” said Thomas. “I went on up towards Hemingford and things still didn’t look to bad. There were some tattered leaves but nothing terribly serious. Then I drove west of Hemingford and about eight miles west of Hemingford crops really got hammered out there. I’d estimate 40 to 100 percent yield loss on corn and wheat crops out there. I just got a call from a grower that said they were supposed to be harvesting today but they will not be harvesting as their fields are flat now.”
Hail in Hemingford reached sizes around golf ball size and continued to grow as it traveled.
“Here in Alliance it was the huge hail that did the most damage to cars, houses, and trees,” Thomas noted. “But that huge hail is not what does the most damage to crops. It was the three-quarter inch hail that was driven in by 50 to 60 mph wind that just shreds crops to ribbons.”
“There isn’t as much of the big hail and it just kind of plops down and most likely misses the crops but that little stuff just comes in sheets and with strong winds it will just take out a whole field,” Thomas said. “Some sunflower crops, alfalfa, and dry edible bean fields were also demolished along with wheat and corn fields.”
Power was knocked out in both Hemingford and Alliance during at least one of the storms.
Jeremy and Lacy Hitchcock live nine miles and had severe damage to their home and property. Siding on their home was filled with holes and the roof was damaged. The power pole feeding power to their home broke off and they lost power.
“This was probably the worst storm we have seen since living out here,” said Lacy. “Everything is all good now. We were able to bypass the broken power pole in the yard to get power back and the insurance adjuster was here today for the house. Will have to replace the siding and the roof and the windows on the north and west sides. We were lucky to not have any windows broken out and I don't think the roof will leak before we can get it replaced.”
The crops to the south of their property were completely destroyed. Some crops belong to Dean and Sonya Buskirk.
“We don’t have any idea yet as to what all was lost,” said Sonya. “There are so many farmers that lost a lot. We are part of a large group. It was devastating in some spots and then others not so bad. We have a lot of roof damage and such here at the farm, tractor cabs, windows and windshields. Some farmers had sprinklers down and other damage. Everyone is waiting for adjusters at this point.”
The crop loss is incredible for the community, and just as wheat was ready for harvest,” Sonya added. “So many lost so much.”
“As we are taping holes in the tin roof to discourage additional rain from coming in, I guess we are thankful for no injuries in the community and we will keep on harvesting what we have with prayers for a better tomorrow,” she said.
Judy Mann reported that every one of their fields got hit and the damage ranges from a little too severe.
“It was a heck of a storm that’s for sure,” said Mann. “We had hail from lemon size on down and when they hit the ground they bounced three to five feet back up in the air but there wasn’t a lot of hail. That second storm with the hail and wind is what caused the crop damage.”
“That’s why this is ‘next year country’,” Judy said.
Doug and Tim Hashman brought in the first load of wheat to Farmer’s Coop in Hemingford.
“Harvest is so far so good,” said Doug Hashman. “We kind of got hung up on these few storms and had a bit of hail damage but nothing too bad. Test weights are coming in good and proteins are better than we anticipated with no rain.”
As of July 9, 2021 a total of 28 percent of wheat has been harvested.
By state: Nebraska 23%, Texas 92%, Oklahoma 95%, Kansas 73%, Colorado 11%, South Dakota 8%, and Oregon and Idaho are less than 5% harvested.
“Starting to see some test weight issues and some protein being washed out it just continues to rain in Oklahoma and Kansas,” said Colt Foster Grain Originator.
He noted that local test weights are coming in around 57 to 61 pounds/bushel and proteins are 9 to 15.