Hail storm leaves path of destruction

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The early morning storm on Tuesday, Oct. 7, didn't take long to pass through Craighead and Mississippi County but left a path of destruction that has devastated many.

Meleisa Finch, manager of Kiech-Shauver-Miller Gin, along with Sam Wilson of Monette Co-Op, said the affects on farmers and agriculture related fields will be far reaching and will not be fully known until the end of the cotton season this year. Some farmers lost 100 percent of their fields. All area gins including Southland, Adams, Black Oak Gin, and Childress are affected. Some individual farmers have had up to 1,500 acres damaged. Wilson said Monette Co-Op has 15 farmers affected and Finch said five of their farmers were affected.

Farmer Michael Mangrum looking at what remains of one of his fields. (Town Crier photo/Christie Zolman)

"One report we got was 10,000 acres of cotton that is not harvestable," Finch explained. "There is about 45,000 acres affected from Dixie all the way over toward Osceola. For us it lowers the number of bails, it lowers our income with bail warehousing and cottonseed and it affects our employees. The fewer bails we gin the less they make."

Finch and Wilson along with farmer Michael Mangrum talked about the trickle down affect the hail damage will have. Mangrum spoke about farm workers, module haulers, seed haulers and others having a shorter season, which means less money. Wilson said the bags and tags they purchase will be less, the season being shorter will mean less pay for employees of any gin, and fewer module wraps will be purchased. Finch said farmers will not be buying defoliant which will affect crop dusters. All three said this fall hail storm will affect many.

Mangrum said he went to bed Monday night with a forecast of 30 percent chance of rain and plans of harvesting his cotton on Tuesday. When he woke he didn't think the damage was severe but when he looked at his fields he had hail standing and cotton on the ground. Mangrum was just hours away from harvesting but in 15 minutes that changed. He now has 300 acres of cotton that has been wiped out completely. Those fields cannot be picked and are a total loss. His remaining cotton has various degrees of damage.

Luckily, Mangrum is one of the few that has hail insurance. He explained the hail insurance will not pay for all he has lost but will hopefully pay some. Wilson said a lot of his farmers didn't have hail insurance since a fall hail storm is rare and those that occur in the spring can be recovered from.

"No one has ever seen anything like this," Mangrum said. "It really hasn't sunk in yet. We are all still in a daze."

Wilson said the Monette Co-op along with the other gins are doing all they can to help, but like Finch says it is heartbreaking. Wilson said people don't know the time and money that goes into a farm. He explained that farmers get crop loans they have to pay back with the profit they make from their crop. All three said they are waiting to see what disaster relief is offered if any. Mangrum said if the relief is a low interest loan that isn't going to help much. For now it's a waiting game. Insurance adjusters will be coming in to survey damage and there should be some decision on disaster relief soon.

Finch, Wilson and Mangrum felt it was important people know that all area gins will be affected and all agriculture related fields will affected by this sudden hail storm. All said it was not just farmers that were hurt.

"We are all trying to focus on the positive," Finch said. "We need to stop and count our blessings because it could have been worse. As heartbreaking and sad as this is because we know what farmers have invested in their crops, this could have been worse. It will take everyone a while to recover but we will recover."

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