Derecho destroys farm buildings, equipment across eastern South Dakota: 'It's pretty devastating'

Dominik Dausch
Farm Forum

Of all the people who were hit by the Thursday derecho, farmers and ranchers seemed to have the best view from their rural homesteads.

"Holy (expletive)," says Nate Hansen in a video he shared to Twitter. From his phone's perspective, his Dell Rapids farm is entirely shrouded by dust clouds; between the rains and the debris, you can barely see past his porch.

"It was crazy how fast it came," Hansen explains in a phone interview. "We didn’t have much time to prepare. It was crazy how much dust was in the air and … we didn’t have much warning."

A toppled tree can be seen from inside this tractor on Nate Hansen's farm near Dell Rapids. He says he counted 35 fallen trees on his property.

Of course, the storm could be seen coming from a mile away, he says, but the lack of warning he's referring to is the speed at which it closed the gap to his house.

The NWS reported straight-lined winds of 70 to 100 mph in southeastern South Dakota with the storm.

They were joined by Gov. Kristi Noem, who addressed the severity of the weather event. She said many farms and ranches were impacted and the damages would be difficult on agriculture producers.

"We had buildings go down on herds of cattle. A lot of people had their entire farms almost wiped out. Getting anything replaced at this time of year, with our supply chain and the needs that they have to put crops in their fields, is pretty challenging," Noem said.

Noem also advised farmers with damages to property to report any damages to their insurance agency. She also asked those impacted to communicate with local extension services and the Farm Service Agency so they can collect data for future damage assessments.

'I've never been that scared of a storm before'

The broken remains of a shed's roof pile up on a fence at a Dell Rapids farm on Thursday, May 13, 2022. Gov. Kristi Noem said farmers saw loss of livestock after buildings collapsed on the animals within.

Hansen was, understandably, shaken by the whole ordeal: "I've never been that scared of a storm before. It felt like the whole place was gonna get leveled, and you couldn't tell if there was a tornado in it or you just couldn't see anything."

The Dell Rapids farmer took cover after taking some photos. Once the main brunt of the storm hit and went, he later went and surveyed the destruction.

"We have two buildings that are a total loss, and one that's just got a lot of damage —about $45,000 in damages," he estimates.

MoreEmergency managers swarming to assess storm damage in multiple South Dakota counties

"It was pretty bad," says Doug Sombke, president of the South Dakota Farmers Union. "What it has done to some of the hog buildings and poultry facilities — it's pretty devastating."

Livestock facilities need power to spin the in-unit fans and keep the animals cool. Sombke says he's heard of multiple livestock farms lose power, and while they usually have backup generators, he adds they can't run on that forever and that "the real damage has yet to be assessed."

East of Madison, Dave Ellers listed out the destruction to his land: "a lot of trees downed, uprooted. House shingles blown off. [Crop] yield: cosmetic damage. My wife's mom lost her house complete. Grain bins, sheds downed."

More'This shook my soul:' Photos, videos show severe weather and storm damage in South Dakota

Tripp, a town located an hour and a half southwest of Sioux Falls, is a rural community made up of farmers. The town grain mill "just buckled completely," according to Tripp resident Christine Thomas.

Thomas briefly observed the storm before the winds forced her to take shelter: "When I stepped out front of my house, I saw one tree just go down right across the school and nearly hit a truck. Just a block away, a building collapsed, sending debris onto some nearby train tracks. If we didn't call the train company ahead of time, it would have derailed."

Debris from a partially destroyed building falls obstructs the railroad going through Tripp, South Dakota. Residents in town called the company of the next train and warned them of the danger before it could potentially derail.

More'Tonight is a rough night': How deadly storms rolled through Sioux Falls, South Dakota on Thursday

At times like these, Hansen, who will be spending his Friday afternoon cleaning up around the farm, says it's best to look on the bright side of things: "Main thing is, everybody's safe. We can clean and do all that stuff ... we're out here to live another day."

"As bad as this was, it could have been worse, and we have to all be aware that this weather is getting very violent," Sombke says. "This isn’t something new. It’s been coming.”

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified the city of Tripp as being located in Tripp County. The error has been omitted.