Corn is flattened and damaged after a storm Aug. 24 on Steve Turnis’ farm near Sand Springs, Iowa.  
Corn is flattened and damaged after a storm Aug. 24 on Steve Turnis’ farm near Sand Springs, Iowa. PHOTO SUBMITTED

    SAND SPRINGS, Iowa – While Steve Turnis and his family were working with cows in his farm’s freestall barn the afternoon of Aug. 24, a storm picked up outside.
    “The wind was howling,” Turnis said. “It was scary. The wind blew really hard for about 20 minutes. We shut down the curtains and closed the doors. I was afraid to look when we got out and the storm was over.”

    The 80 mph wind had knocked down 50 of his 250 acres of corn on his 200-cow dairy near Sand Springs. Northeast Iowa was not the only area to experience late-August severe weather.
    Sandra and Tom Herdering from St. Rosa, Minnesota, had a powerful storm roll through their 75-cow dairy about 12:30 p.m. Aug. 28.
    David Tauer also had storm damage from strong wind that came through later in the day – one portion that arrived around 6:30 p.m. and a second round around 10:30 p.m. – at his family’s 220-cow dairy near Sleepy Eye, Minnesota.
    “I’ve never seen corn down like this before,” Turnis said. “There’s not a stalk standing. It’s like you ran it over. I’ve seen some break off (from storms) but nothing like this.”
    Turnis was about 10 days out from starting to chop the corn, which he guessed probably would have yielded about 200 bushels per acre.  
    “I tried chopping it with my chopper, and I can’t get through it,” he said.
    One load took 1.5 hours to chop so Turnis said he will hire a custom chopper.
    “You can’t believe there would be that much difference between varieties, but we have corn that is flat right next to the corn that is still standing,” Turnis said. “We’ll just take one step at a time trying to get it done.”
    The Herderings are in a similar situation. The storm Aug. 28 rolled in quickly, Sandra Herdering said.
    “Within five minutes the storm came up … and just like that the sky started turning green,” she said. “When it’s green like that when it storms, it’s bad.”
    She and her husband retreated to the basement with their son and his family, who were visiting, until the storm passed. When they went outside to assess the damage, the Herderings found several uprooted trees around their house and flattened corn fields.
    “Everyone comes by our place and tells us our fields are the worst,” Herdering said.
    Plus, they had no power. They used a generator for milking and chores until the next day.
    “We had the generator running through the night, and Tom sat in the truck to watch it all night to make sure it kept running for the next morning for milking,” Herdering said.
    None of their corn had been harvested yet; however, they had been contemplating to start chopping within a few days after the storm. Now the storm is forcing them to chop their fields.
    “We got one field off, but we had to go really slow,” Herdering said. “We got a Kemper head chopper to chop it. We went at it diagonally. It’s taking a lot longer than normal.”
    Feed inventory for the coming year will depend on how much they can chop from the downed corn.
    “It won’t be as good as we hoped for,” Herdering said. “But we’re pretty lucky that buildings didn’t go down, so we’re happy about that.”
    While Tauer is not pleased with the storm damage his fields sustained, he feels fortunate for an overabundance of feed last year to help make up for the lost inventory.
    “We had quite a bit left over from last year,” he said. “Usually we don’t have anything left over, but last year was the best year we had for yields on everything as far as corn silage and tonnage. And the corn we chopped so far this year yielded really well, so I think we’ll be pretty good.”
    It was the second round of storms that went through their farm Aug. 28 that Tauer thinks made the most disruption to the corn fields.
    “We were finishing up milking that evening and had the radio on,” Tauer said. “The weather alarm came on, and I assumed it was for a flood watch or something. It had been lightening all night to the west of our place, and I figured they had a lot of rain, but it was a tornado warning.”
    While the storm was not classified as a tornado, strong winds flattened about 40 acres of their 200 acres of corn.
    “I tried chopping the down corn with a pull type chopper, but it did not work very well,” Tauer said. “The corn broke off as I went through and bunched up. I’m going to try to find a custom guy with a Kemper head to chop it.”
    Two years ago, the Tauers also experienced crop damage after hail pummeled the area in early June. They are thankful this year was not as bad and for the extra inventory in storage.
    “So we had a really bad year, and then our best year and now we’ve had this,” Tauer said. “It will be all right. It’s just one of those things you can’t count the crop until it’s in storage.”
    As they go forward with harvesting the downed crop, Tauer keeps safety advice in mind for both himself and others dealing with the same issue.
    “When these things happen, harvesting the crop will be more difficult, more stressful and more frustrating,” he said. “You worry about people doing things they shouldn’t – trying to feed corn into the chopper while it’s running and stuff like that. With the stress and frustration, it gets to be more difficult to handle it. It’s one of those things you hope everyone stays safe and makes the right decisions. Be patient with it.”