Dust storms and gale force winds leave a trail of destruction in the Midwest

Dust storms and gale force winds leave a trail of destruction in the Midwest

CHICAGO — Hurricane-force winds swept across the U.S. upper Midwest Thursday night, sending walls of dust over cities and rural towns, causing extensive property damage and killing at least two people.

Straight-line winds up to 105 miles per hour ranged from Kansas to Wisconsin, driving waves of farmland topsoil over the horizon and plunging communities into darkness, forecasters and soil experts said.

The wall of dust evoked images of the 1930s Dust Bowl, farmers said, when winds dropped warehouse buildings onto tractors and overturned cars on freeways.

One person was killed by a fallen tree in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, according to the National Weather Service. A second person was reportedly killed in Minnesota when a grain bin fell on a car, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

“The damage is extensive, but it could have been much worse,” said Todd Heitkamp, ​​chief meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The heaviest damage hit parts of Nebraska, South Dakota, Iowa and Minnesota, he said.

At least two people died as a result of the storm.

When the winds died down, a gritty layer of black dirt covered wind turbine blades and filled drainage ditches, farmers said, as rich topsoil crucial for growing crops blew away some fields.

Dry conditions in the Great Plains and Midwest, combined with traditional farming practices like tillage, prepared the ground for the massive dust storm, according to Joanna Pope, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s public affairs officer for natural resources.

“The best defense against this type of stuff is growing cover crops and soil-conserving practices like no-till,” she said.

The storms are another setback for farmers struggling to ramp up production amid food inflation.
Instagram@rdo_ss via REUTERS

“Soil that is exposed dries up very quickly and the strong winds just blow it away. That’s the livelihood of the people, damn it. It’s terrible.”

The storm could intensify fighting as farmers face delayed seeding, rising input costs and pressure to ramp up production amid record-high food prices and fears of shortages.

In central Nebraska, high winds destroyed irrigation systems used to compensate for dry conditions for recently planted crops. Farmer Kevin Fulton said it could take weeks to fix the costly systems.

The storm caused significant property damage.
Kevin Fulton via REUTERS

Farmer Randy Loomis was planting corn near Ayrshire, Iowa, when the storm blew through and tossed a neighbor’s grain bin over his yard.

His wife and daughter, after bringing his dinner, left their car to huddle upwind in a nearby ditch, he said.

“This big cloud of dust was three football fields across,” said Loomis, 62. “It was just black. …it had sucked up all the black dirt.”

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