Western Kansas wheat hit by hail storm

Posted May 16, 2018

Storms ripped through western Kansas from Wallace County to Ness County in a swath ten to 15 miles wide on May 14. Wind gusts up to 80 miles per hour and hail from pea-sized to baseball-sized broke out windows, dented cars and tore siding off of houses.

Wheat fields in the area weren’t spared either. Fields that were already suffering from drought stress were completely destroyed by the “great white combine.”

In Scott County, Glenda and Rich Randall estimate that they lost about 300 acres of wheat near their home. Within ten minutes, marble sized hail paired with 70 mile per hour winds tore through their irrigated wheat field. The wheat was just beginning to head out, but after the storm, it appeared as though it had been mowed off by a dull blade. Glenda said, “You looked outside, and it just looked like winter.” Rich estimated that field, which was planted late after corn, would have made 40 bushels per acre, but now was a total loss. A field to the west also suffered severe damage, but Rich estimated it was only a 50% loss. On the upside, the Randalls did have multi-peril and hail insurance, as hail is common in their area.

A few miles to the east, the Ramseys surveyed their fields near Manning, Kan. Marc, who returned to farm with his dad, Craig, in 2011 said this was the worst he’s seen. From the road, the fields still looked somewhat lush, but upon closer inspection, heads were bent over and stalks were broken in half. The smell of freshly cut grass was in the air. Divots in the ground showed how much force the hail had. The fertilizer tanks on the top of their corn planter had holes in the top. Although they have federal crop insurance, they do not have additional hail insurance. Marc said he couldn’t even hear the wind and rain over the sound of the hail. Estimates from the area included baseball-sized hail up to one report of cantaloupe-sized. Neighbors in the area estimated that up to two-thirds of their crop was destroyed.

To the west, David and Lisa Schemm farm near Sharon Springs, Kan., in Wallace County. The storm directly hit their house and fields near the house, which appear to be a total loss. The pre-hail yield estimate for the 325 acre field near their house was 42 bushels per acre.

“The hail storm went from Weskan and went southeast, pretty much in a line,” said Lisa. “It was very wide, so we’re estimating a little over half of our wheat was destroyed. It was 70-plus mile an hour winds. I would say it probably would have been golf ball, up to just shy of a baseball-sized hail, and the winds were vicious.”

The west sides of houses in the area were hit the hardest, with windows busted and siding destroyed. The Schemms only have two west-side windows, so they didn’t have as much personal loss as some of their neighbors, but, on the positive side, Lisa says she’s been wanting new siding on the house for a while.

“It wiped everybody’s west side windows and siding out. Windshields were knocked out of vehicles, and of course, wheat fields,” she said.

This devastation follows a hard year, where Kansas wheat has suffered from drought. Many areas of the state have received less than an inch, up to only a couple inches of moisture since early October. Abandonment of acres has been more common than average, and only 7.8 million acres were planted last fall, which is the third lowest planted acres since 1913, up only slightly since last year.

Additional photos available at facebook.com/kansaswheat/