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Early-month tornadoes damage farm property in Indiana, Ohio

PORTLAND, Ind. — Producers in Jay County, Ind., and Mercer County, Ohio, lost cows, hogs and turkeys when a tornado hit the area Nov. 5.

The number of animals killed was still being assessed at press time. The tornado traveled 39 miles from Eaton in Delaware County, Ind., and through Jay before it ended west of Celina. One person had a minor injury in Jay County.

The tornado was one of 13 in Ohio and six in Indiana confirmed by the National Weather Service (NWS). The tornado, with peak winds of 120-134 mph, was an EF2, according to preliminary reports from the agency.

A second EF2 caused eight injuries and damaged businesses and other buildings on the east side of Celina. None of the injuries were considered life-threatening.

In Jay County, a minimum of 40 barns, garages and sheds were destroyed or damaged, said Ralph Frazee, director of its Emergency Management Agency (EMA). Eleven homes were considered destroyed, according to guidelines established by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Sixteen houses suffered major damage and 17 had minor damage.

Several grain bins were also uprooted and destroyed, he said. Five hog barns belonging to one operation west of Portland were destroyed or heavily damaged. Two of the farm’s owners were in one of the barns when the tornado passed, added Todd Holsten, senior meteorologist with the NWS office in northern Indiana.

“They took cover in a corner of the barn and that corner was the only part of the structure still standing,” he said. One hundred hogs out of 8,500 in the barns were killed.

A house near the hog operation was destroyed. Two people in the house ran out and took cover in a ditch. “Had they stayed in the house, both of them would have been killed,” Holsten explained. “We really dodged a bullet with only one minor injury.”

The same operation had two turkey barns on the property; one was destroyed and another heavily damaged. The owners had shipped 50,000 turkeys the previous Friday, he said.

Frazee was helping with weather-spotting at the time of the storm. “I wasn’t necessarily looking for tornadoes,” he said. “We don’t have that mindset (when we go out). I sure wasn’t expecting what we got.”

The county also saw some crop damage, said Larry Temple, the county’s Purdue University extension educator for agriculture and natural resources. Corn was flattened in some areas and dropped ears are probable. He said farmers may not be able to harvest 10-15 percent of the county’s corn and soybean crops as a result of the storm.

Damage in Mercer County will probably be in the millions of dollars, according to Mike Baucher, acting county executive director for the Farm Service Agency.

“The tornado wasn’t really wide, but where it hit, there was major damage,” he noted. “Several houses were destroyed or heavily damaged, as were barns for hogs, cattle and turkeys. Grain bins and other barns were also damaged.”

A barn holding about 400 cows at a dairy operation in the western part of the county was heavily damaged by the tornado, said Mike Robbins, director of the Mercer County EMA. Some turkey and hog barns were also hit. Livestock loss was reported but the number of dead animals wasn’t available.

Though most of the county’s corn had been harvested, some stalks still standing were flattened by the tornado. Baucher said he doubts the damaged corn can be harvested.

The NWS office in Wilmington surveyed the Mercer County tornadoes. About 20-25 properties were impacted by the storm in the western part of the county.