BLOOMFIELD, Neb. — In just moments, Shane Greckel saw his corn yields nosedive in half.
Late Wednesday night, hail pummeled his farm 1½ miles north of Bloomfield, Nebraska.
"Ninety percent of our farm was affected by hail. Twenty percent was severely damaged," he said. "In five minutes, we went from a stellar corn yield, where we were hoping for 180 to 185 bushels an acre, to hopefully 85 (bushels an acre)."
His neighbors fared even worse, he said. Much of the damage was recorded in the area around Bloomfield and Lindy in northern Knox County, Nebraska.
Greckel also heard of damage in the Springfield area and other parts of Bon Homme County.
"My parents told me the last time we had hail like this was 1985 or 1986, so we’re looking at a 35-year period," he said.
Hail, heavy rain and strong winds rolled late Wednesday night through southeast South Dakota and northeast Nebraska. Earlier that evening, baseball-sized hail was recovered in the Pierre area of central South Dakota, followed by a storm system that followed roughly the Missouri River corridor near Yankton.
"Most of it was crop damage, although the Lindy church took a few hits," Greckel said. "One window was broken out, and that was being covered up."
He received a storm alert at 11:16 p.m. "My phone went off last night on one of our radar apps," he said.
Greckel noticed the strong gusts, and he pointed to one measure for wind speed — the wind turbines in the Bloomfield and Crofton, Nebraska, corridor.
"We had terrible winds," he said. "All of our windmills shut down, and that happens when the winds get more than 55 miles per hour," he said.
The storm lasted approximately 10 minutes, Greckel said. "It was definitely a significant amount of damage in short order," he noted.
Greckel spent Thursday checking out the damage on his farm and learning about his neighbors’ situation.
"Some of my cornfields had 75 percent defoliation," he said. "That was our worst fields, and that (amount of damage) doesn’t touch what some of my neighbors got."
The 75 percent defoliation figure for corn doesn’t tell the entire story, Greckel said. He noted the need to triangulate the damage by also considering the milking and reproductive stages.
The dents on the kernels from the hail will kill off the surrounding corn, Greckel said. A farm could be looking at 25 percent loss for a dented area, but some corn can have up to three impacted areas, which drive the affected figure to 75 percent.
"You can have absolutely beautiful corn with all of its foliage, but you can still have a huge effect as far as yield impacts," he said.
Greckel checked his livestock Thursday, and they fared well throughout the storm. However, he saw extensive crop damage in the area. He produced one drone image from 250 feet in the Lindy area, noting the viewer looking down from above shouldn’t be able to see the ground in a soybean field.
"I drove past a few soybean fields. In one field, I don’t know what they’re going to do with it. They may just disc them under," he said. "As for the corn, maybe they can salvage it and sell it for silage, but the tonnage will be so minimal."
At his residence, he received nickel- to quarter-sized hail at the largest. About a half-mile away, a farm was getting ping-pong ball sized hail.
In addition, he received about 1.5 inches of rainfall in 20 minutes or less, followed by another 0.25 inches of rain.
Some areas of north-central Nebraska, still suffering the effects of the March bomb cyclone, took another hit with this latest storm, Greckel said.
"Holt and Boyd counties to the west, the O’Neill area, were hit with hail," he said. "If you follow Eric Snodgrass, who is a meteorologist, he said the path of the storm over 72 hours had hail going along a line from Pierre (South Dakota) to Ewing (Nebraska). It was a solid line covering a large area."
In that respect, Wednesday night’s storm was out of the norm, Greckel said.
"My seed (representative) had indicated he had never really seen a hail storm this wide, with a width of about four miles," he said. "That’s pretty unusual. I’m not sure how far it ran north to south, but I do know that from Springfield all the way down here was pretty impacted."
Greckel considered himself fortunate in one respect. He had planted far fewer beans than normal because of the price.
The continued wet spring conditions created delayed planting far past the usual starting date, Greckel said. He didn’t plant some of his fields until May 6, about three weeks behind schedule.
"We didn’t plant until later, which worsened the magnitude of this (storm) by at least five fold," he said. "What we’re seeing now in the field typically would be more indicative of mid- to late July. So if we had planted earlier, we would have had much harder corn that was much more resilient to damage. Now, their ears were just forming, which made it highly susceptible to this kind of damage."
After the recent storm and damage, farmers are left with questions such as whether to increase their hail insurance or whether to spray with fungicide to protect fields, he said. Their financial situation may not make it feasible.
The forecast indicates the stormy weather may be far from over, Greckel said.
"A Canadian clipper could put us in the higher risk for storms in the next two weeks," he said "We’ll just have to wait and work things out. We’ll just have to do the best we can."
Thunderstorms are possible in northeast Nebraska tonight (Friday) and Saturday morning, according to the National Weather Service.
The Yankton area should see a 20-40 percent chance of precipitation from tonight through Monday, with temperatures in the mid- to upper 80s.
Additional storm chances are in the forecast through the middle of next week as the weather pattern becomes more unsettled.
Flooding will continue on the Missouri River above Lewis and Clark Lake and from Nebraska City downstream into Missouri.
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