Ore. Storm Damages Crops

July 11, 2007

A severe thunderstorm damaged alfalfa, potato and strawberry crops in southern Oregon.

Several alfalfa fields in Malin, where the crop had been more than 4 feet tall, were sheered, as though cut by mowers, the (Klamath Falls) Herald and News reported. Irrigation lines were scattered, with some draped around power poles.

Cory Turner, a Malin farmer, said quarter-sized hail was followed by heavy rains that left standing water nearly a foot deep in some fields. He said the roll-up door at his garage was blown in, and the roof at his home almost flew off.

“Everything was underwater. It flat blew hard,” Turner said.

Damage from the storm, which began in Northern California and swept through Malin, Bonanza, Sprague River and Klamath Falls, is still being assessed. The storm cut off electricity to thousands of customers in Klamath, Siskiyou and Modoc counties. Crews from Pacific Power were called out last Friday, and worked virtually non-stop through Saturday.

Along Highway 50 between Merrill and Malin, more than 13 power poles were toppled, forcing a highway closure.

Winds up to 55 mph were measured by the National Weather Service office in Medford, with more than 3,000 lightning strikes reported. Heavy rain, hail and winds were blamed for the crop damage.

The storm frightened those in its path.

“I thought it was going to cut my house in half,” said Dick Hudson, who lives in the Yonna Valley area and reported heavy damage to strawberry crops.

Down the road from Cory Turner, Carol Suty, 80, said she had never seen so much rain. Friends and family on Saturday were removing downed pine trees from her property.

“My, what a mess,” Suty said as she checked the damage.

She and her late husband, Anton, used to farm, but she now leases the fields. “Farmers have one heck of a time,” she said. “Biggest gamble in the world.”

Turner plans to salvage what he can.

“It’s not all lost, but all those hay fields are lost,” Turner said. “A lot of guys’ potato fields are gone.”

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