Staying for the Long Haul: Benton County Wind Event

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Greg Walston is Benton County program director for ISU Extension and Outreach. When severe weather two days before the county fair resulted in extensive property and crop damage, ISU Extension and Outreach took action, dealing with immediate clean-up, as well as bringing together farmers to discuss the crop and livestock situation and emergency programs available. ISU Extension and Outreach has remained involved in cleaning up storm damage, solving grain storage issues, and dealing with issues as they arise. Greg says:

July 11 was the crucial date in Benton County. It started about 4:30, 5 o’clock that morning. … It was what they call a “wind event” — high winds in excess of 110, possibly 135 miles per hour, sustained for more than 20 minutes — and blew a lot of the corn down; extensive tree damage to a lot of the towns.

People were coming out and saying, “How is my neighbor doing? How is everybody else doing?”

About the damage in his own yard, Vinton resident Frank Van Steenhuyse says:

This whole area used to be a forest of great big pine trees. We planned ahead for 20 years from now, and it took all of them out. So now we’re starting from scratch, basically. Our neighbor Janet calls our backyard a wasteland.

A lot of us in this neighborhood had to pay for tree removal before the carpenters and the electricians could get to the house to do their work. There’s a lot of out-of-pocket expense around town, plus replanting … just a lot of hidden costs that aren’t showing up on insurance policies.

We used to sit on the deck every night in the summer … ‘til past dark, and look up at the trees, watch the birds. … Well, now you look up and you’ve got nothing.

Greg says:

We were starting to get calls of “do we need help” and “what do we need help with on the fairgrounds.” One of the biggest parts of damage from the storm was the loss of steel and some of the structural things on the hog barn … (we had to) try and make it at least safe enough for the fair to occur. But now the decision comes in: How do we make something that’s damaged better than what it was prior to the storm?

How’s the corn going to do? We had a meeting later that week at a local farmer’s place. We had about 110 farmers there. … We were able to give the producers some reassurance that, indeed, they will have a crop. It might not be as good as what they expected, but it will be there, and things will be a lot better in a couple months.

We’re here for the long haul. We’re here to make sure that people know if they need information, they need a way of finding out how can we make things better, or how can we improve what we have, that’s what Iowa State University Extension is about — getting out and talking to people, and getting them the information that they need, so that they can make an informed decision on dealing with catastrophes.

To Benton County, Extension means we’re here when the event happened. We’ll be here six months from when the event happened … today … tomorrow … five years from now … 10 years from now. We are part of the community. That’s what Extension is all about.

Get Involved

Contact Greg Walston, gwalston@iastate.edu, 319-472-4739, about Benton County disaster follow-up.

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