June 28, 2022

Large swath of damage left after severe storms

Severe storms whipped through Adair County quickly last Tuesday evening, but they were here long enough to forge a path of devastation.

Bridgewater Farm, the largest certified organic farm in the state, located north of Bridgewater, was hard hit.

Dale Raasch, who owns Bridgewater Farm with his wife, Marcie, said he kept hearing rumbling to his north throughout the afternoon Tuesday. The radar and forecasts still showed storms moving slightly north of their farm. His outlook changed when he observed clouds moving from north to south at around 5:30 p.m.

“It was at that point that I knew it wasn’t going to be very good, because whenever we get anything out of the north or northeast we always have a bad storm,” Dale said. “That’s when I went and started shutting up all of our high tunnels, then I came in the house and shut all our windows.”

At around 6:30 p.m. the wind started to pick up, there were a few sprinkles, then approximately quarter-size hail started. Raasch observed a “complete whiteout” and estimates winds blew at about 80 mph.

When they went out onto the farm, the Raasches saw hail piled about 2 1/2 feet deep about about 30 feet wide. Garlic that was 30 inches tall is now 8 inches tall. Green onions are 4-inch stubs. All 5,000 tomato plants the Raasches planted are gone, but they have some that were under cover that survived, and 1,500 more to plant. Their first sweet corn plantings succumbed to the storm., as did all their greens, beets, zucchini, cucumbers, okra, broccoli, cucumbers, cauliflower and cabbage.

That’s not to mention thousands of strawberries that were ruined. Dale estimates they lost about $32,000 just in strawberries. Their total loss likely exceeds $150,000.

“Pretty much all of our crops that were being grown outside were destroyed,” Dale said. “We have four high tunnels. They survived it and have been very tough. All the trees had their leaves stripped off of them. The plants are mostly the same. It wasn’t a very good evening.”

The Raasches have received support in the aftermath of the storm, in the way of donated seed and transplants, because of a tight-knit community of certified organic growers. A GoFundMe page was started to support Bridgewater Farm. It had raised over $11,000 as of Friday afternoon.

Because of the difficult nature of insuring a farm like theirs, none of what Bridgewater Farm lost was insured.

Brett Welsch of rural Fontanelle got caught in a machine shed south of town during the storm.

“I was in my dad’s machine shed thinking it looked like the storm was staying north. Next thing I know, the machine shed is shaking,” Welsch said. “Luckily I have my pickup in there. The brown overhead door was bowing in, so I rolled up to the door with my front bumper to hold it from buckling all the way. Cleanup will take awhile but thankfully we are all safe.”

The storm continued moving east, causing damage in both the Avondale and Richland areas.

A tornado was said to be confirmed on the ground west of the Orient curve and a tornado warning for the area was issued at about 7:30 p.m., however National Weather Service (NWS) meteorologist Rod Donavon saw video and photos of the storm and damage is much more consistent with straight line winds that can be just as damaging as a tornado.

A tornado was also thought to have touched down north of Creston near Green Valley State Park, but those observations were not confirmed by the NWS.

“What happened was we had a lot of wind that kicked up a lot of dirt that got re-ingested back into the storm, so it looked like this rising dirt motion, but it was all straight line winds consistent with 60 to 80 mph across that area,” Donavon said. “At the time we did have some rotation on the radar, but it didn’t actually translate down [into a funnel or tornado].”

Caleb Nelson

Caleb Nelson

Caleb Nelson has served as News Editor of the Adair County Free Press and Fontanelle Observer since Oct. 2017. He and his wife Kilee live in Greenfield. In Greenfield and the greater Adair County area, he values the opportunity to tell peoples' stories, enjoys playing guitar, following all levels of sports, and being a part of his local church.