Northern Colorado farmers assess damage from Wednesday night storms
Farmers from one end of Weld County to the other were out assessing damage this week from a series of storms, some of which spawned tornadoes, that pounded fields with hail and heavy rain on Wednesday.
The heart of the damage seemed to be in southern and southeast Weld, but a dairy northeast of Fort Collins also got hit by what could have been a tornado, said Homer Dye, owner of the Dyecrest Dairy north of Colo. 14 on the border of Weld and Larimer counties. The National Weather Service said no tornado touched down in that area. Tornadoes were confirmed, however, south of Hudson and in northern Weld along the Wyoming border.
“It was almost to the day of that one two years ago and that’s a little unsettling,” Dye said. He was referring to the May 22, 2008, tornado that hit hardest in Windsor, but resulted in $200,000 in damage to his dairy. This time, he said, he’s estimating about $190,000 in damage because of the loss of two cow shelters and 150 calf shelters that were blown over. Dye milks 1,500 cows at the dairy, but said he didn’t lose any.
Margie Martinez, spokeswoman for the Weld County Sheriff’s Office, said the intersection of Weld County Road 49 and Colo. 52 east of Hudson was still closed Thursday morning because of water, as was the intersection of Weld Roads 16 and 51, about halfway between Hudson and Keenesburg. County crews worked on those roads Wednesday.
Crop farmers were still trying to assess total damage, and the extent of some of that damage won’t be known for a while.
Bob Sakata of Sakata Farms in Brighton said he lost 360 acres of sweet corn, onions and cabbage on fields east of Hudson, in southeast Weld, Wednesday afternoon. Then, about 10 p.m. Wednesday, another storm hit the Fort Lupton area of southern Weld, where he had cabbage, broccoli and onions.
“All the fields in Hudson are gone. I didn’t even want to go out there and see it, but Rob (his son) said those fields were covered with 4-6 inches of hail and the water was still running off them this (Thursday) morning,” Sakata said. That water, he added, was still going across Colo. 52 between Hudson and Prospect Valley.
Those fields, Sakata said, will have to be replanted, but he and Rob think those in the Fort Lupton area “may come back, but we’re going to lose a lot of tonnage,” as those crops will not mature as they would have without the damage.
“The fortunate thing, I guess, is that this happened early enough that we have options. It’s those July storms like we had last year where you don’t have options,” Sakata said.
Mike Otto, senior agriculturist with the Western Sugar Cooperative, said several acres of sugar beets in the Prospect Valley area and Windsor area were damaged.
“We’ve got probably 1,500 acres total, but it’s too early to determine the extent of that damage,” Otto said, adding there’s a chance some of those acres may need to be replanted.
“But we’re getting close to the end of replanting,” Otto said.
About 3,000 acres of beets in Colorado have already been replanted, he said, due to soil crusting as a result of this spring’s heavy rains, and winds. In western Nebraska, it was even worse, where about 40 percent of the beets had to be replanted after a late spring freeze.
“It’s been such a cold spring we’ve just had all sorts of problems and this is just another,” Otto said.