a hail storm

If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you would have seen a smattering of photos about a storm we had on Monday evening. There was quite a bit of buzz about it because it wasn't just any storm.

We were eating dinner at my parent's house when it started to get really dark outside and eerily quiet. We knew a storm was coming—we were watching it on radar from our phones—and it looked like the red center of the storm was heading straight for our area.

After we ate we gathered on the porch to watch the storm approach. There was thunder and lightning and looming clouds, and they seemed to be oddly rotating. Our vantage point was towards the south, and the storm was coming more from the southwest.

Then it started hailing. At that point we all wondered if we should go move our vehicles inside, but it was a bit late for that. We would have been pelted by hail stones. 

Most of the hail was larger than marble size, with the occasional golf-ball size stone mixed in. In the end, the worst part was how steady, thick, and sideways the hail was. It rained hard for quite awhile after, then hailed some more, as if the storm was circling back. We went to the back of the house where it was hitting the hardest and the noise was deafening. There was a broken window pane on that side of the house.

Back at home we inspected the damage:

A couple of windows were broken out in the shop, and the flower beds were flattened. The rain gauge held over 2-1/2 inches of rain.


Holes in the swimming pool... and a gnome casualty. But mostly minor stuff.

The next day we had another similar storm*, but this time the main swath went east of us. We still ended up with another nearly 3 inches of rain. That is more than 5 inches in 2 days, which is pretty much unheard of this area. *Links to an interesting Weather Channel video, while it lasts.

As we inspected the damage the following day we found a few more things. All of the skylights were busted in our camper trailer, one of them breaking the latch and opening up so the mattress and a slew of blankets and sleeping bags below it were completely soaked. 

The basement guest room has water in one corner, so the carpet is now pulled back to dry it out. The downspout on the rain gutter had been disconnected and didn't drain far enough away from the house.

Speaking of rain gutters, our new gutters are now dented long the front side of our house.

We will need to have an adjuster look at our roof as well. It is less than two years old and doesn't look too terrible, considering.

Surprisingly, our cars didn't fair too badly. There are a few dents in my hood and along one side, but it is hardly noticeable. I thought Tom's mirror had a nice-sized hole from hail—until he informed me that he accidentally shot it while aiming for a gopher. Ha! 

It was my plants that showed the most damage. The seedum (left) looks like it was chewed on and the tomato plant (right) was stripped of most of its leaves, even semi-protected under the eaves of the house.


The yard is covered with bits of the trees. But hello—could be so much worse, right?


The thing is, if my yard plants look like this, you know it can't look good for the crops. I'm afraid the farmers in our area suffered significant damage. This once beautiful winter wheat field now looks very scraggly. (Wish I had a before picture to show you.) If you look along the horizon, that stand of wheat should look very even and thick. Instead you see scattered wheat heads sticking up.

Up close, you can see the heads bent sideways and stems snapped. This field will probably be considered 90% damaged, and others totaled.

If a winter wheat crop is totalled or adjusted as mostly damaged, it won't be harvested at all. It will likely be sprayed out so it won't continue to sap nutrients from the soil. If the field can be sprayed out before June 15th it can be considered summer fallow for the year, meaning it can be planted with winter wheat again next year. Two years without income on a field is hard to endure. The thing is, the field must be adjusted first, and the insurance adjusters (as you can imagine) are quite busy at the moment. 

Some of our own winter wheat was planted later than our neighbor's, and some if hasn't "headed out" yet. It may fair better than those further along, however, a bruised stem can produce a head that just curls up on itself and doesn't form good kernels. Time will tell.

Spring crops (those planted in the spring) should fair better because they are younger, smaller plants. We planted a lot of spring crops this year. In fact, we have 8 different crops in the ground: winter wheat, spring wheat, peas, lentils, mustard, canola, barley, and alfalfa. The farmers around here, who mostly only grow only wheat, may think we are crazy. But when you are hit with a disaster like this, diversification can be a very good thing. 

One of our spring crops is mustard, and it is the first year we have grown it. Unfortunately, we won't know its full potential:

It looks pretty hammered and there are many broken stems. We aren't sure if it will recover, but most certainly it will decrease yields. 

Driving around the farm can make you a bit sick to your stomach, and you might imagine the farmers wallowing in a bit of self pity right now. But really, they shrug their shoulders and move on. They just pull up their boot straps and figure it is just their turn this time. They are thankful it doesn't happen every year. Thankful it wasn't worse. Thankful they stomached the painful insurance premiums yet again because it has saved their hide before. 

Most farmers carry multi-peril insurance on all their crops. Some also carry additonal hail insurance. My dad fortuitously purchased hail insurance on our winter wheat the day of the storm. Hopefully the insurance payments will be enough to cover the expensive spray and fertilizer bills. And hopefully the unheard of 5 inches of rain will help make up for it in other places. 

But did I already mention we were thankful it wasn't worse? That is because photos like this were circulating around Facebook after the storm:

Photo credits go to Roger Hill, a professional storm chaser. Not sure how he managed to be in the right place at the right time. He calls the storm a "super-cell" (definition here).

This photo was taken around Loma, which is a few miles northeast of us. Probably right after it went right over our heads. We didn't see the storm from afar, but we certainly could see the rotating clouds. If we'd seen this before it hit we might have been hiding in the basement. If you watch the links in the previous paragraph you'll understand why.