MALIN — Farmers are looking at total losses of potato, alfalfa and strawberry crops while others are removing trees and repairing irrigation systems after a Friday night thunderstorm.
Damage from the microburst, which began in southern Siskiyou County and swept through Butte Valley, Klamath Falls, Malin, Bonanza and Sprague River, is still being assessed.
The storm cut off electricity to thousands of customers in Klamath, Siskiyou and Modoc counties. Crews from Pacific Power were called out Friday night, and worked virtually non-stop through Saturday. The utility hoped to have power restored to all users by Saturday night.
At its peak, Pacific Power spokesman Tom Gauntt said more than 6,500 users in the Klamath Basin, from Butte Valley to Klamath Falls to Alturas, were without power. Along Highway 50 between Merrill and Malin, more than 13 power poles were toppled, forcing a highway closure.
Winds up to 55 mph were measured by the National Weather Service’s Medford office with more than 3,000 lightning strikes reported. Heavy rain, hail and winds that funneled through some areas were blamed for crop damage.
National Weather Service spokesmen said the storm peaked in Butte Valley, tapered off in Klamath Falls, then rekindled in the Bonanza-Malin areas before finally dissolving past Sprague River. Meteorologist Mike Johnson said weather spotters reported serious damage to Butte Valley strawberry fields.
For those in the storm’s path, the storm was frightening.
“I thought it was going to cut my house in half,” said Dick Hudson, who lives in the Yonna Valley area. Hudson said Peter Steiner Road was heavily damaged with drainage ditches along the road filled with mud. He also reported heavy damage to strawberry crops.
Hail, heavy rain
In the Malin area, several farmers suffered crop losses.
“Everything was underwater. It flat blew hard,” said Cory Turner, who said quarter-sized hail was followed by heavy rains that left standing water nearly a foot deep in some alfalfa fields. “I stayed up all night pumping the field off.”
Turner said the roll-up door at his garage was blown in, the roof at his home “was about blown off” and irrigation pipes were tossed across fields and highways. People driving along Micka Road saw sections of the road lined with wheel lines.
“It’s not all lost, but all those hay fields are lost. A lot of guys’ potato fields are gone,” Turner said.
Several alfalfa f ields, where the crop had been more than 4 feet tall, were sheered, as though cut by power mowers. Irrigation lines were scattered and bent, with some wrapped around power poles.
“My little boy was scared to death,” the 32-year-old Turner said, noting he and his wife, Danielle, and their two sons, Zack, 4, and Avery, 4 months, huddled in their house during the storm.
Down the road, Carol Suty spent the several hours wondering what was happening outside.
“I’ve never seen such rain in my life,” said the 80-yearold Suty, who has lived in the family home since 1960. “It was scary. It was raining and blowing, not to mention the lightning and thunder.”
Friends and family were removing nine downed pine trees, some from an old bunkhouse, outbuilding and her home.
“My, what a mess,” Suty said as she surveyed the damage, which included only a small dent on her car.
Turner, who said he was only one of many who suffered losses, plans to salvage what he can.
“ There wasn’t anybody that didn’t get hurt,” he said of neighboring farmers. “What’s next? Tear apart the wheel lines, fix ‘em and get on with it. That’s farming. That’s Mother Nature.”