Sask. producers pick up the pieces after tornadoes

Alysa Pederson of Environment Canada said this was the first tornado that Saskatchewan has produced this year. | Twitter/@MeaghanRyersee photo

Softball-sized hail was also reported in some areas as a violent storm flattened crops earlier this month in the province’s southwest

Derek Tallon was busy assessing the state of his crops the day after a tornado and hail storm tore across his farm at Lafleche in southwestern Saskatchewan earlier this month.

“Probably about 60 percent of the farm has seen some of it and 10 to 20 percent of the acres are pretty close to a write-off,” said Tallon, who is growing canola, durum, lentils and chickpeas this year.

“I’m thinking we’re probably losing 20 to 30 percent of the total bushels,” he said.

Tallon spent the better part of an hour in the basement the evening of July 4 with his wife and daughter listening as “pool ball-sized hail” fell on his house.

Looking out the picture window afterwards, he watched as a tornado slowly moved up and down across the land in the distance.

“A mile north of my yard it actually looks brown. Some of the crops look like they’re mowed straight down to nothing.

It doesn’t look green anymore, so she’s pretty bad,” he said.

Alysa Pederson of Environment Canada said this was the first tornado that Saskatchewan has produced this year.

“Storm season for Saskatchewan is pretty much the beginning of June, right through to harvest. We really see a downturn on severe summer storms when harvest happens, usually in August,” said the meteorologist.

She said the late afternoon tornadoes and hail on July 4 were created after an early morning thunderstorm produced a pocket of cold air southeast of Swift Current.

Environment Canada issued its first tornado warning about 3:40 p.m. as the storm system slid southeast toward the hamlet of Glenbain an hour later.

A second, larger tornado touched down for 20 minutes northeast of Kincaid near Meyronne.

And a smaller, third tornado briefly landed south of Assiniboia.

Pederson said softball sized hail was reported near Glenbain, which at 11 centimetres across is about as large as hail gets on the Prairies.

“When we get a severe storm of this magnitude, loonie to golf ball is a pretty common hail size. It’s kind of goes from the 2.7 cm to four cm in loonie, toonie, walnut, golf ball. Above that is your tennis ball, baseball, grapefruit and softball,” she said.

Kira Durston, a crop input specialist with Cargill based in Congress, Sask., has been busy checking fields.

She said some acres around Woodrow were hardest hit with the hail was larger than the pea-sized hail that fell near Lafleche.

“The closer you get to Limerick is the odd field that’s literally written off, especially north of Highway 13, but on average, I would say closer to Woodrow, where they had that orange-sized hail, it’s 30 to 50 percent damage is what the farmers are estimating,” she said.

She has not seen any tornado damage yet, but the impact of hail damage is easy to see.

“The lentils are flattened out from where they got hit. The heads on the cereals have been broken off for the most part. The tips of the canola plants have been shredded down and then some of the leaves have been shredded. Haven’t seen any damage on chickpeas yet,” said Durston.

She thinks that many crops will bounce back —canola has time to rebranch as well as lentils. However, it’s a different story for cereals, which have received the most damage.

“A lot were headed out already, so the yield potential that were in the tillers was a lot lower than what was in the main head,” she said.

“Hopefully they have the ability to tiller and still add up to something.”

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