Tornado damage hits Iowa farmers hard

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NASHUA, Iowa -- Barns, silos and machine sheds collasped when a tornado pounded the Nashua area June 18.

The storm left crumpled cars and trucks and damaged houses in its wake.

``It's just hard to believe the total devastation,'' said Ron Becker as he surveyed damage on the Clark and Lynette McGregor farm, west of Nashua. Becker, an insurance adjuster with Floyd County Mutual Insurance Company, said he started filling out claims at 5 a.m. Friday and by 10:30 a.m. hadn't scratched the surface.

In addition to processing insurance claims, Becker, McGregors' neighbor, to McGregors, had damage toon his own farm. to contend with. His barn blew down, destroying his car and van, and his house also received sustained damage.

Lynette McGregor was counting her blessings Friday morning.


She and her husband, Clark, loaded out their feedlot cattle two weeks ago. Their heifers went to pasture about the same time.

``If they'd been here, we'd be pulling carcasses today,'' she said.

The storm destroyed the McGregors' cattle shed, snapped off the granary, leveled the machine shed and the barn and toppled an old stave silo. A tractor and pickup parked near the flattened buildings received escaped with only a few dents. The couple's garage was ripped off the house and the chimney blew over leaving a gaping hole in the ceiling.

McGregor said that she doesn't like storms and didn't like the looks of the sky Thursday afternoon. She called her father, John Phyfe, Nashua Chief of Police. He drove out to the farm shortly before the tornado hit and radioed the county to activate the sirens. McGregor and the children waited out the storm in the basement along with a neighbor who needed shelter. Her father never made it out of his car.

``I was in the car for what seemed like hours but was probably less than 20 minutes,'' Phyfe said. ``I couldn't see anything but a wall of water and darkness. I know the squad car lifted off the ground. I'm glad I weigh 200 pounds.''

``We'll get things cleaned up, and then see what we'll do,'' McGregor said. ``It will really change how we operate until we get things rebuilt. We ran fed cattle out of both lots and calved the heifers here. It worked well because my husband liked to check on the heifers during the night, and he was right here.''

Neighbors, family and friends have called with offers to help clean up.

``It's been wonderful,'' Lynette said.


Roy and Brian Bierschenk were cleaning up silos that blew down in the storm Friday morning.

A new silo, which was empty, was completely destroyed. The second silo, which was half full, snapped off in the middle. A steel shed was smashed destroying a livestock trailer and a grain truck stored inside. The Bierschenks also lost a couple of sheds on other farms that they own. Luckily, the cattle in their feedlot escaped injury.

``I've never seen a big stave silo crash like that,'' said Roy Bierschenk shaking his head. ``Often, the whole farmstead goes down and the silo is left standing.''

Neighbors, friends and employees were cleaning up the rubble Friday. A silo company was on the scene repairing the damaged silo so the Bierschenks could use the remaining silage. Tim and Judi Kramer and their two children were in Waterloo Thursday to be with Judi's father, who had open-heart surgery. When they stopped in Waverly on their way home for evening milking, they heard a tornado had been spotted near Nashua.

``We didn't know what to expect,'' Judi said.

When the Kramers made it home, they found that almost every building on their farm had received some damage. The calf shed was in pieces in the hay field, and the calves were scattered all over. Luckily, their 60 milk cows went into the free stall barn and the doors blew shut.

``None of them were outside when the tin was flying around,'' Tim said.

A neighbor boy helped them round up calves. They cleaned things out of the way, straightened out the feed bunk, and started a generator so that they could milk Thursday night. Their machine shed lost part of its roof, and a section of the roof on the free stall barn blew off. The calves were moved to Tim's father's farm Friday. Many friends and neighbors have offered to assist with repairs.


``We don't even know where to start,'' Judi said.

At the Northeast Iowa Research Center southwest of Nashua, the farm's irrigation system, used for an ongoing water quality study, was twisted and overturned. Huge trees were uprooted and snapped off. There was no major damage to buildings, but eaves were broken and grain bins were bent from being hit by falling trees, said Ken Pecinovsky, research farm superintendent.

``This is something that doesn't happen in Nashua,'' said Cheryl Dettmer as she surveyed damage on her family's farm site west of Nashua. ``This happens somewhere else.''

Dettmer was at work in Tripoli when she heard on the radio that a tornado hit Nashua. She drove home not knowing what to expect. She found the barn that she and her husband, Jason had recently renovated destroyed and ``tin scattered from here to China.'' The doghouse was turned on its roof and there was glass everywhere.

Charles Brady was at work at Featherlite in Nashua when the tornado struck. His wife Kimberly was at their rural Nashua home with their four children. Kimberly got the children in the basement and watched out the basement window as dust, debris and water flew around.

Charles said he looked out the door at Featherlite and saw what looked like two funnel clouds above the trees coming toward Nashua.

``I shouted get out of the building,'' Charles said.

``It was like a roar of a train,'' Kimberly said. ``All I could hear was the roaring and hail hitting the basement window.''

Cattle from a neighboring farm were walking down the driveway when Kimberly and the children came up out of the basement. Trees were uprooted and limbs were broken off. A tree smashed the back end of the couple's Ford Taurus. In Nashua, uprooted and fallen trees caused much of the damage, said Mayor Dianne Lantow. One house was destroyed, 10 homes had major damage and 63 had minor damage. One mobile home was destroyed. There were three businesses with major damage, and two businesses with minor damage. There was one injury from the storm. Bill Cleveland Jr. of Nashua was hurt when his mobile home was destroyed, Lantow said. He was taken to North Iowa Mercy Health Center in Mason City where he was listed in fair condition. Nashua City Hall became command central late Thursday. Volunteers from the Red Cross and wives of Nashua fire firefighters and the Civic League set up a feeding station for the volunteers who came into town from all over the area to assist with clearing streets blocked by downed trees. ``We have great people here who want to work for the good of the community,'' Lantow said. @et

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