Saturday, July 9, 2011

Disaster Strikes!

Danny's Cornfield July 3, 2011 the morning after a tornado hit it.

What a week!  I can't believe it was just a week ago that Carla and Jim came up from Casper to spend a quiet 4th of July weekend with us.  Our plan was to do some hiking, hot tubbing, moving around some beds in preparation for us bringing up some more beds from Danny's, do a little fancy cooking and just enjoying the sunny Colorado mountains.  Well, as you might guess, that didn't happen.

Danny is working on the new hut.
Carla bolts together the braces in the new hut.

Kathi and Carla put the final touches on the hut before we cover it.
Carla and I got some "fancy" cooking done, Jim did get Bob's computer cleaned up and back to working a lot better and we did get to sit out in the afternoon sun for awhile before the mosquitoes took over!  I will be posting the recipe we concocted in my next post.  After dinner Carla and Jim went for a walk with Izzy that turned into a mad dash home while being chased by a big cloud of mosquitoes!  As they came into the house, the phone was ringing.  It was Danny with bad news!  At 8:09 PM (according to Skyler) They decided the swirling clouds above their heads, the high winds and rain and the weird yellow sky along with calls from Kathi's sister warning that a very bad storm was coming their way might indicate a tornado and for the first time since they have lived there they ran for the well house (the lowest place on the farm, it covers a 4 foot deep hole where the well is).  They spent 45 minutes there with the hail, wind and rain beating on the little house.  Danny tried to peek out the door every so often but could only see up toward the sky.  They came out to assess the damage in the dark.
Jim and Mark load up some of the billboard canvas that is still useable.  Jim's wearing one of the Open A bar 2 caps I made to process chickens in.
Danny headed for the pasture where the cattle were, including 2 calves only a few days old.  The fences were down and all the cattle were scattered in the southwest corner of the field.  The poor calves had been left behind to fend for themselves.  Danny had to do some gathering up and moving of animals but they appeared to have weathered the storm all right.

Kathi tries to find at least one plant that might have survived in her east garden.

Meanwhile, Kathi and Skyler went out to check on the damages in the chicken pasture.  The baby chicks in the 2 wooden, stationary brooders had made it through with no damage!  Not so the bigger chickens!  2 of the chicken huts were totaled and had blown over the pasture fence without even knocking it down and were on the county road.  2 of the 5 were still standing but had blown approximately 150 feet,  the other one was also damaged but still standing.  There was about a foot of water standing in the whole pasture and 480 of about 600 chickens perished between the hail, deep water and possible smothering.  A terrible night because there was nothing they could do for the survivors.  No place to go with all the water!
This hut was totaled.  It blew clear out of the pasture.

Skirting on the house has huge holes where the hail hit it!  Sammi is checking it all out.

The roof of the house was damaged along with the skirting which had huge holes from the hail on 2 sides.  Shingles were everywhere.  A few windows were damaged or broken, and the yard and gardens were a mess.  Kathi's 2 vegetable gardens were reduced to mud only.  Nothing survived.  The sumac trees in the yard lost most of their leaves and looked like lonely sticks.  The crops were all totaled.  The foot and a half tall alfalfa field looked like someone had just mowed it.  Skyler asked where the hay from it was, but on closer inspection it was beaten into the mud. The corn field had a few lonely little beat down sticks left,  Not a pretty sight.

The vegetable garden.  What a mess!
Anyway, back at the cabin after talking to a stunned, Danny, we tried to decide if we should leave immediately and try to process as many of the dead chickens as we could or wait until morning to leave and go help clean up the mess.  Kathi and Danny figured coming that night  with a 4 hour drive would be pointless and to just come in the morning, so that's what we did.
Fence down and chicken huts scattered across another pasture.
We arrived just as Danny, Kathi, Skyler, Lori (Kathi's sister from Torrington) and her husband Mark had disposed of all of the dead chickens--good timing on our part.  It was hot and humid and we had brought our mud boots with us.

Clean up was easier with the 4 wheeler.

Removing the reinforcing wire from the billboard canvas was a chore.

  We went out into the pasture and started cleaning up the damaged huts and sorting the usable and unusable parts that were there.  We sloshed around in swampy mosquito infested waters as best we could.  Fortunately the 4 wheeler was able to drive out there without getting stuck in the mud!  Izzy had to be on the leash and did not like being in all that muddy water much either.

Izzy was not a happy helper in the muddy water and on the leash!

  Bob and Skyler went to get Subway sandwiches for lunch and we got most of the chicken mess cleaned up and ready to start repairing and rebuilding by the time they got back.

Carla helps to load salvageable reinforcing wire, billboard canvas and wood into the horse trailer.

On July 4th (the next day) Kathi was determined to have her planned BBQ in early afternoon.  We worked hard all morning fixing fences, building a new hut, repairing the worst parts of the less damaged huts and cleaning up shingles.

Damaged hut that needed repaired.

The back blew out of this one.

Lori and one of her daughters came back for the BBQ, Chris (Kathi's son who had been in Denver for the holiday and would be going back home to Kearney) arrived and so did Thomas(Jim and Carla's son) with our pickup from Casper.  We had the standard burgers(from their all natural beef) and they were delicious!  The rest of the day we just kind of relaxed and watched the clouds roll in again!  This time they by-passed us and did their damage further south.  Carla, Jim and Thomas headed back home and we opted to watch fireworks on TV rather than go into town.

The next day we processed the survivors that were due to be processed.  Of the 400 that started out as baby chicks we had 71 to do.  A big loss!  There will be none left to do next week and about 90 in the next batch of 400 to do 2 weeks from now.  No insurance covers chickens, either. One plus we did notice was that chores went much quicker with so few chicks!  Also no irrigating will have to be done unless Danny replants the Sorghum-Sudan grass and then with as much high water and rain as they have had it might not happen anyway!
The alfalfa field looks like someone mowed it.
Wednesday was Danny and Kathi's anniversary.  A neighbor came by and asked Danny if he wanted to put up his hay, which had not been damaged in the storm but had a pretty muddy field.  Danny went to mow the field while we finished building the new hut and started smoking chickens in the faux big green egg  for the Farmers Market on Saturday.  That night we had tickets to the Glenn Miller Orchestra concert in Scottsbluff.  The tornado warnings were up again and we could see threatening clouds all around the area.  Skyler stayed home to monitor the chickens and the storm.  When we parked in back of the historic Midwest theater in Scottsbluff that evening, we saw members of the band out scanning the sky anxiously but we felt safe because Kathi had called the theater and discovered they had a tornado shelter in the building.  We didn't need it and had a great time at the concert.

The west garden didn't have anything left but mud and a few lonely leafless sticks that used to be pepper plants.

Kathi's west garden looks like a mud flat.
I have to say that Danny's place was not the only one to suffer damage.  All the neighbors around them lost their crops as well and there was a lot of damage to homes and vehicles in Lyman a few miles away.

The next day we came home to see that there was still a lot of snow on the mountains and plenty of mosquitoes still around.  Friday we went to Steamboat for a CSU dinner and drove over in a huge rainstorm which had the streets in Steamboat running with water.  But that is a whole other story!

Lots of snow on those mountains for July!

High water at the cabin bridge!  A story for tomorrow.

1 comment:

  1. Well documented, Penny. That was a lot of damage & clean-up and work. Hope insurance pays for some of this.