Cost of tornadoes still being assessed

Farmers asked to report damage to Agricorp, with some areas expecting heavy hail losses

The large barn at Eugene Frayne's farm near Kingsbridge was destroyed in a recent tornado.

Tim Herd and his partner Emma Hackett arrived at Chris and Greg Hackett's family farm outside of Lucknow when the weather turned. 

"We drove into the farm, and legitimately, it was like three seconds in, and we had to go inside to go to the basement," Herd said. "It was just completely wild; it was like a massive black cloud came out of nowhere, and we had to take cover real quick."

Grabbing the dog and cat, the family rushed down into the basement and watched the weather approach through a small window.

Why it matters: The storms of Sept. 6 and 7 cuts a swath through crops across Huron, Bruce and Grey counties, resulting significant yield loss and cost to farmers.

Several tornadoes come ashore off Lake Huron and cut through Huron and Bruce farms and communities. The associated storms causes crop damage even wider, especially because of hail. The tornadoes destroyed buildings and ripped through crops hitting farmers with a double whammy of losses.

"We honestly didn't think we were going to see a tornado. We thought it was just going to be hail and a bit of rain and stuff," Herd said. "We looked up (through the window), and we just saw the barn roof rip off it. It was absolute mayhem."

Herd said the two barns hit housed anywhere between 100 to 200 head of cattle in one barn at any given time and approximately 15,000 chickens. 

Considering the level of destruction they witnessed once the family emerged from the basement, the lack of injuries was shocking, said Herd.

"It was pure shock, really. You'd never expect that type of damage to happen," he said. "You're looking around and seeing that the barn is completely wrapped around trees and the silos completely gone. There's bricks, and there's wires, and there's metal all over the place."

The couple went to the farm to drop off their dog and cat before heading to New Brunswick, where Herd recently took a job, to house hunt with plans for Emma to return once settled. 

The tornado spun their plans and the future of the Hackett Farm into question.

 "You just never expect this type of thing to happen, and when that does, you're just standing there being like, what do we do now?" Herd said. "But the best part was, after it, the community came together, and they really helped the Hacketts to figure it all out."

Within hours people were flocking to the farm and other farms and residents impacted by the tornado and storm to jumpstart the clean-up and begin logging fallen trees to make the area accessible. 

 "To see the community come together to help … was really tremendous," he said. "Fifty people showed up. They just accelerated that clean-up to make sure that they (the Hackett's) could just focus on the business."

Eugene Frayne's Ashfield Township farm was left in ruins by the tornado. 

"I need to thank everyone who has been here, contacted up and given us support this past week," he tweeted. "The work that's been done and the kindness we've received is absolutely incredible."

Fortunately, no one was hurt, Frayne said.

It wasn't just the immediate community helping. Neighbouring counties, like Arran-Elderslie, sent in workers to assist impacted communities. 

"Bruce County was hit very hard with the storm, but Arran-Elderslie escaped most of the storm damage," said Mayor Steve Hammell. "Two of our Works Department members and one of our trucks is over in Saugeen Shores today. They're our direct neighbour, and we were really glad to help, and our staff were really keen to offer help."

One of the ongoing challenges has been restoring electricity to affected areas, said Chris Cossitt, Bruce County Federation of Agriculture president. 

"(Hydro One) responded with a lot of extra help to come in and support our area, which is very much appreciated," Cossitt said.

He said most farmers have a generator to deal with power outages; however, long-term outages add another layer of stress to an already challenging event.

"Every commodity has their concerns, and they do need that infrastructure to be functioning," he said.

Cossitt didn't want to speculate the impact on crops from the storm and hail damage, suggesting that would be better assessed once Agricorp investigators had time to make their reports. 

After the early morning tornado on Sept. 6, Dan Hayden (@dungannon_Dan) went out to look at his soybean and corn crops. 

"Quite a few beans on the ground, still quite a few beans still in the pod which is also, maybe, good news . . . This could be an issue," said Hayden in the video he posted of his soybean field directly after the tornado had passed. 

His cornfield across the road was still standing fine. He said the tornado shredded the leaves, but it was hard to tell the full extent of the damage in the dark.

Stephanie Charest, an Agricorp representative, said they're already working closely with three production insurance customers who suffered crop damage due to winds in the areas affected by storms the first week of September. 

"We ask that farmers with Production Insurance please call us if they have damage so we can help them understand their coverage options and next steps," said Charest. 

Production Insurance covers producers for yield reductions and crop losses caused by factors beyond their control, such as adverse weather, which causes their yields to fall below their guaranteed production, she said. 

Charest said AgriStability also has coverage available for significant declines in farming income due to production loss, increased costs and market conditions with an interim payment option to assist with cash flow. 

The Northern Tornadoes Project, which documents tornadoes in Canada, has assessed Lucknow as an EF2 tornado with wind speeds up to 180 km and a 1.3 km track that travelled nearly 19 km. In addition, the storm spawned several smaller tornadoes and downbursts as it came ashore, ranging between an EF0 for the Goderich tornado and an EF1 in the Harriston-Kenilworth area. 

They are still assessing several potential tornado sites for the event.

While not the most significant tornado to ever hit Ontario, the EF-0 tornado in Port Albert on Sept. 6 is unique in its timing. 

The tornado spawned by a supercell thunderstorm over Lake Huron came ashore at 4:05 a.m., travelled 2.3 km and reached a width of 175 metres.

Compared to the Lucknow tornado, it wasn't on the ground as long, nor did it reach the same dizzying speeds. However, nighttime tornadoes are exceedingly dangerous due to the lack of warning for people in harm's way because they are generally asleep. 

Before Sept. 7’s barrage of twisters, Canada had racked up more than 50 tornadoes in 2021, half of which touched down in Ontario.

About the author

Reporter

Diana Martin

Diana Martin has spent more than two decades in the media sector, first as a photojournalist and then evolving into a multi-media journalist. Five years ago she left mainstream media and brought her skills to the agriculture sector. She owns a small farm in Amaranth, Ont.

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