Holiday storm leaves damage in wake

Farm Forum

Tom Klipfel had just pulled his pontoon out of Elm Lake when Monday evening’s thunderstorm barreled through.

Klipfel farms near Forbes, N.D., and was at Elm Lake Resort with his family. He thought the storm would slide north. But he got a call from his son, who was baling hay, informing him otherwise.

“We kind of got caught by surprise,” Klipfel said.

His son advised him to pull the pontoon out of the lake, so Klipfel set out to get the pontoon onto its trailer. That was about 6 p.m.

“Just when we were loading, it hit,” Klipfel said. “We were fighting the wind, pulled it out on the trailer and just parked.”

Klipfel said if he hadn’t gotten help from a stranger on the dock, he wouldn’t have gotten the pontoon onto the trailer.

As the storm blew through, Klipfel said, it was “a little frightening” with zero visibility and his pickup rocking in the wind. At times, he said, he wasn’t sure the pontoon was going to stay on the trailer.

Considering how many people were at the lake for Independence Day, he said, it’s fortunate nobody got hurt.

“There were some boats that had to weather it out on the water,” Klipfel said. “Some parked on shore and got out. One fella said they were on a pontoon, got on shore and they went under the pine trees to ride out the storm.”

“It looked like we were just on the edge of it,” said Connie Swenson, manager of Elm Lake Resort.

Swenson hadn’t seen all the damage from Monday’s storm, but said some trailers were tipped, trees were damaged and residents were missing items that simply blew away. At Elm Lake Resort, one item that took flight was a bright green kayak.

“Everybody was safe, and that’s the important part,” Swenson said.

Brown County Emergency Management Director Scott Meints confirmed there weren’t any injuries from Monday’s storm that put four recreational vehicles on their sides. The outdoor warning sirens were not activated, he said. While the primary use for the sirens is to warn of tornadoes, he said, Brown County policy allows them to be sounded for high winds.

“It has to be verified, and our spotters weren’t seeing that,” Meints said.

Amy Parkin, meteorologist for National Weather Service in Aberdeen, said the thunderstorm dropped down from North Dakota into McPherson County, then hit the Elm Lake area.

No formal wind speeds were recorded, Parkin said, but she estimated wind speeds would have to hit 70 to 80 mph to tip a camper onto its side.

Meints said estimates from residents clocked winds about 70 mph. The nearest recording equipment is in McPherson County, where wind speeds of 60 to 65 mph were noted. Forbes, N.D., also recorded wind speeds of 65 to 70 mph.

Swenson said there wasn’t any rotation in the storm, which means no tornado. Meints said the storm likely produced straight-line winds. A severe thunderstorm warning was issued at 5:38 p.m., Parkin said.

She said the storm also dropped pea- to dime-sized hail.

Meints said several boats and pontoons tipped over. The storm tracked east about 5 miles, damaging crops.

“The beans, wheat and corn had considerable damage,” Meints said. “Leaves were shredded.”

Klipfel said hail from the storm caused significant crop damage in certain fields on his farm. Damage ranged from shredded leaves to broken cornstalks, he said.

“We had some sunflowers that are not going to come back,” he said.

Grain was also stripped in his oat field, he said. Corn and soybeans may bounce back depending on the damage, he said, but yields will be affected.

Dickey County Emergency Management Director Charles Russell said Monday’s storm hit Forbes hard. Most damage was to local crops, he said, but there was also tree damage. He said some small sheds, a mechanic’s shop that was under construction and a construction trailer were toppled.

Ken Simosko, National Weather Service meteorologist in Bismarck, N.D., said, a second storm passed through Ellendale, N.D., between 8:35 and 9 p.m.

Russell said he’s heard concerns that sirens weren’t activated in Forbes, but there wasn’t a tornado with the storm.

“We can’t blow the siren every time there’s clouds,” he said. “The best warning device is your eyes.”

Both Russell and Meints said it’s important that everyone to pay attention to the weather and take shelter when necessary.

Follow @ElisaSand_AAN on Twitter.