tractor is covered in debris from the derecho

A tractor is covered in debris from the derecho that went through the northern half of Iowa Aug. 10. Farmers and rural communities are still picking up the pieces from the devastation brought by the storm.

Dean Frazer says his day started like any other Aug. 10 on his central Iowa farm, but later that morning, he began to follow a powerful storm headed his way.

By mid-afternoon, Frazer had lost 80% of the storage on his grain and livestock farm near Conrad. Hundreds of acres of corn were flattened or damaged.

Frazer, who lives just off U.S. Highway 30, watched in disbelief as the violent storm called a derecho packing 100 mph winds cut a swath of destruction over 700 miles before dying in Ohio.

“My son was in a hog building marking pigs that we were going to market the next day when the storm hit,” he says. “He was looking for the safest place in the building and didn’t know where to go. We’re lucky the wind didn’t pick him and the building up.”

The storm damaged millions of acres of crops as well as homes, shops and other farm buildings. Parts of Iowa were declared a federal disaster area Aug. 18 as President Donald Trump visited the state.

Denise Schwab, who farms near Belle Plaine and works as an Iowa State University Extension beef specialist, watched as the storm shredded fields and severely damaged several buildings.

“Our house only lost shingles, but we lost pretty much everything else,” she says, adding her son had more damage at his nearby farm.

Schwab says while soybean fields look decent, corn fields range from 100% flattened to 30-40% standing.

“It could look three different ways in the same field,” she says.

A large number of livestock buildings in her area were also damaged.

“We have a neighbor who lost three of his four hog barns, and cattle barns were also destroyed,” Schwab says. “It’s hit or miss on how much the storm took.”

Several Iowa political leaders, including Gov. Kim Reynolds and Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig, were among those to meet with the president Aug. 18 in Cedar Rapids.

Shortly after the storm, USDA’s Risk Management Agency reported 57 counties in Iowa were in the path of the derecho. There are approximately 8.2 million acres of corn and 5.6 million acres of soybeans in those counties that may have been impacted by the storm.

Based on satellite imagery and Storm Prediction Center preliminary storm reports, IDALS projected 36 counties in Iowa were hardest hit by the derecho. Within those 36 counties, the storm likely had the greatest impact on 3.57 million acres of corn and 2.5 million acres of soybeans.

Many farms lost grain bins, while elevators also lost facilities. This comes at a time when harvest is on the horizon.

According to IDALS, early estimates indicate more than 57 million bushels of permanently licensed grain storage was seriously damaged or destroyed. Naig says the co-ops estimate it will cost more than $300 million to remove, replace or repair the damaged grain storage bins.

Frazer says he placed an order for new grain bins the day of the storm, adding with damage at local elevators, finding a place for the new crop will be challenging.

“If we’re lucky, we will get 20% of our storage capacity back by harvest,” he says. “There’s a 5- to 10-mile swath of major bin damage in our area. Fortunately our bins were empty, although it sounds like the large and full bins survived the storm in better shape.”

Frazer says he has about 300 acres of corn that he is hoping to disk under, adding harvest is going to be very slow.

“We don’t what the crop insurance adjuster will do, and with all this damage, it’s going to be a while before we find out anything definite,” he says. “Those adjusters are going to be pretty busy.”

Jeff DeYoung is livestock editor for Iowa Farmer Today, Missouri Farmer Today and Illinois Farmer Today.