July 2, 2007

Hail storm causes loss of crops

The June 20 hail storm caused more than roof damage for local farmers

By Kristen Miller
Staff Writer

One farm was particularly affected by the June 20 hail storm, losing a whole crop to hail damage, but it is doing all it can to bounce back.

Dick and Judy Eckhoff live on the southeast corner of French Lake Township, near Mud Lake. They had plush fruit trees, a good crop of corn, and ready-to-bale oats before the storm came in, dropping four inches of golf ball-size hail.

The hail began at 5:55 p.m. and continued until 6:15 p.m., according to Dick Eckhoff.

“The longer it hailed, the bigger it got,” Eckhoff said.

The hail cut down everything green including oats, barley, corn, and fruit trees, including a cherry tree ready to be picked.

Even the wildlife seemed to disappear, Judy said.

The next day, the Eckhoffs found four dead pheasants and several birds laying in the yard.

Their cows showed little sign of injury except for one cow whom, the vet said, must have been pummelled in the eye and now has an eye infection, Judy said.

Although the Eckhoffs think they were in the epicenter of the hail storm, the storm, itself, extended two miles wide and 10 miles long, from French Lake to Howard Lake, according to Dick.

What upsets the Eckhoffs the most is not the damage to their crops, but the lack of forewarning they received, they said.

No severe thunderstorm was issued for the area except for one in St. Cloud which was heading east at 5:15 p.m., according to Dick. The Eckhoffs are south of St. Cloud.

Despite the lack of weather warning for their area, after looking at the sky, Dick decided to wait a half-hour before sending the workers out to cut oats.

When the storm came, the men had no time to run to the house for cover, so they waited out the storm in a tin-roofed shed, Eckhoff said.

As a farmer, Eckhoff highly depends on the weather forecast.

“We can’t rely on the weather forecast anymore. There is absolutely no weather forecasting outside the metro area,” Eckhoff said.

Insurance will only cover buildings and the cattle, so they have been busy replanting and trying to save what little crop they have left.

One 40-acre field was replanted and they plan on raking the barley to get some grain from it. All the crop produced goes to feeding their cows in the winter. The Eckhoffs are hoping they will have at least two more crops this season.

“Anytime there is 20 minutes of sustained hail, you have a big problem,” Dick said.

Earlier that day, Dick was telling his friends that they had a good crop. In fact, it was one of those years where every single crop was above average.

“We had the best of crops and the worst of crops, all in one day,” Judy said.

Just two miles down the road from Eckhoffs, in Middleville Township, Joey Berg experienced crop damage from the same storm.

“After it happened, the crops looked really bad, corn was stripped off. But it’s amazing how it’s coming back,” Berg said.

“It hasn’t fully recovered, but it looks like it will,” he said.

The Eckhoffs understand that weather like this happens.

“We’ve been doing this 33 years. We’ll get through it. We always do,” Judy said.

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