Derecho winds tear through U.S. farmland, leave 500,000-plus without power

By P.J. Huffstutter and Christopher Walljasper

CHICAGO, Aug 10 (Reuters) - A storm packing hurricane-force winds tore across the U.S. Midwest on Monday, causing widespread property damage in cities and rural towns and leaving more than half a million homes and businesses without power.

The storm compounded troubles for a U.S. farm economy already battered by extreme weather, the U.S.-China trade war, and most recently, the disruption caused to labor and consumption by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Winds as high as 100 mph (160 kph) hit eastern Nebraska, Iowa, Wisconsin, and parts of Illinois in the widespread storm classified as a derecho by the National Weather Service.

It toppled grain bins in dozens of counties and tore into livestock farms in Iowa, the nation’s top hog and corn producer. Bin losses, ahead of this fall’s harvest, could leave some farmers scrambling to find storage for their crops, said agronomists.

The storm started early Monday and caused a wider scope of damage than a tornado typically would, meteorologists said. By Monday evening, it was moving east to Michigan and Indiana, and least 500,000 people were without power, according to media reports.

“This corridor of wind went through and flattened corn and crops,” said Andrew Ansorge, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Des Moines. “We’re still trying to get all the information in.”

Agriland FS Inc, a farm cooperative in Winterset, Iowa, posted images of massive grain storage bins twisted apart and corn spilling onto the ground on Twitter.

Heartland Co-op, which has dozens of grain storage facilities across Iowa, said in a statement it had sustained serious damage at 21 locations.

“Several locations are rendered inoperable and we are making contingency plans for managing the fall harvest,” the company said.

Landus Cooperative, one of North America’s largest grain storage companies, saw damage at three of its facilities – including conveyor equipment at its Bondurant, Iowa, location, Chief Executive Officer Matt Carstens told Reuters.

About 30% of the cooperative’s 7,000 producers farm in the path of the storm, Carstens said.

The storm crossed where about 20% of Iowa’s corn is grown, Carstens said. “There’s no doubt we’re going to lose some of that,” he said. (Editing by Simon Webb and Tom Brown.)

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