My Generation
20 Minutes of Hail

20 Minutes of Hail

Rain, wind and hail battered parts of the Midwest this weekend, including our house and large parts of Iroquois County.

I deemed Saturday as the morning in which I would catch up on laundry. It was a beautiful day, clothes on the line, sun shining, gentle breeze. I was folding clothes after lunch, and I sent the kids out to grab jeans off the line. They no sooner walked in the door before rain started falling, out of nowhere. We joked about how bizarre that was. Then it got completely dark, the wind picked up and it got real serious. Marble-size hail started falling, straight out of the north and blowing across 10 feet of porch to hit our front door.

No joking anymore.

Hail in the hand. This fell for about 10 minutes at our place Saturday afternoon.

I checked the radar and sure enough: a splotch of red, about two miles north to south, and 10 miles east to west, sat directly over us. I called my sister-in-law, whose daughter was supposed to come babysit and told her to sit tight until this blew over. They live 10 miles north of us; the sun was shining at their house.

Back here, wind and lightening were terrible and hail was less than ideal but I told the kids, at least it wouldn't last long.

Ten minutes later, it was still hailing. Wind out of the west lifted the trampoline and set it down, then bent the upright poles. The hail let up slightly. Temporary. In a flash, the hail grew to ping-pong ball/golf ball size and hammered us from the east.

I checked the radar again and sure enough, again: the system was building up, right on top of us. It was red and much larger now, and it wasn't going anywhere. Big hail was hitting our office windows on the east hard enough that I thought they might break. Lakes of water had formed all over our backyard and in the waterways in surrounding fields. It looked like bombs going off as golf-ball-sized hail careened into the standing water.

By the time it finally let up, it had hailed for 20 actual minutes. Three inches of rain fell in that same time. I was pretty much beside myself, thinking crops were destroyed, corn flattened, etc., etc. I called John, who had holed up in a machine shed three miles north, and found out it barely hailed there at all.

We went for a drive and sure enough: hail damage was limited to about a mile radius of our house. Very, very localized. The definition of the lines between hail and no hail, and even rain and no rain, were incredible and exact. Where the hail fell, corn leaves were shredded but standing. The soybeans at our house look a little too stem-my but we are hopeful they'll pull out of it. My sunflowers are now horizontal and my hostas are shredded, as is my neighbor's garden. Several of us lost limbs and trees, and we were able to bend the trampoline back.

Meanwhile, by 5 p.m., the storms made their way east. Another system had formed to the north, and from the Twitter photos I've seen, Iroquois County is devastated. Watseka, Ill., farmer Scott Johnson shared a photo (see tweet below) that had been waist-high corn. My word. Check out his Twitter feed for more photos.

Which is all to say: it could've been much worse here. Our crops don't look anything like that. And that's enough to make a person more than a little sick to their stomach.

Emily Webel's husband, Joe, said it best this weekend: "Our fortunes can change in an instant in this business. The crop looks so good around here that everyone is holding their breath with every dark cloud on the horizon. We know it can go from perfect to a mess in 10 minutes."


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