Storm damages crops in Central Washington

Severe thunderstorms damaged alfalfa, corn, dry beans and possibly other crops throughout Central Washington the night of Sept. 15.

Growers and fieldmen were assessing damage the next day. A lot of fourth-cutting and some heavy third-cutting alfalfa was on the ground from Pasco northward and was damaged by rain, said Ben Schaapman, a Quincy grower.

“There were a lot of double-raked windrows, ready for baling, everywhere and it was blown around and got wet,” Schaapman said. “We have to let it dry today (Sept. 16) and there’s a 30 percent chance of more rain tomorrow.”

More rain would lessen the quality that already might be sliding into feeder hay and costing growers $40 to $50 per ton, he said.

“I shut my swathers down Friday in anticipation of the storm, trying to minimize the loss,” he said. “A neighbor said his field corn was OK, but another said his dry bean windrows blew all over the place.”

Brian O’Shea, field department manager at Quincy Foods, said sweet corn was damaged in the Quincy area and moreso near Moses Lake and Othello.

“The east end of the Royal Slope, some was knocked down pretty hard,” O’Shea said. Dry bean and alfalfa windrows were blown around, he said.

National Weather Service alerts warned of hail and winds up to 70 mph, but Schaapman, O’Shea and Ryan Flanagan, George and Quincy area vineyard manager for Wahluke Wine Co. and Milbrandt Vineyards, said they heard no reports of hail.

Milbrandt Vineyards began wine grape harvest Sept. 9 in the Quincy area and will finish the first week of November with the last half of October being the heaviest, Flanagan said.

Picking machines usually run through the night but shut down for the rain the night of Sept. 15, he said. Wind dried the vines and grapes enough that harvest resumed the next morning, he said.

Wind blew down some apple trellises and damaged some apples in McDougall & Sons orchards in Mattawa and Quincy, but not significantly, said Scott McDougall, company co-president in Wenatchee.

Storm damage six weeks earlier north of Orondo and May 21 near Quincy was more significant, he said. Half the company’s fruit on 700 acres in the Quincy area was damaged by hail May 21, he said.