Purchase photos

Hail puts damper on hopes

6/17/2014

By NICK SCHWIEN

nschwien@dailynews.net

COLBY -- Jeff Tubbs is no stranger to speed.

In fact, the stock car driver from Colby is accustomed to mashing the gas and wheeling his car to the front of the field.

But Saturday night, Tubbs just couldn't drive fast enough -- but not on the track.

As severe storms closed in on Goodland and Sherman County Speedway, Tubbs and his family loaded up and tried to make a break for it.

But Tubbs couldn't outrun the swiftly moving storm.

His hauler and trailer were overcome by large hail, high winds and rain.

"We drove in it from Goodland to Colby," Tubbs said. "There was maybe 2 or 3 miles where we were out of it. They said the storm was moving 60 to 70 mph. It took a pretty good swath."

That large swath of damaging hail and wind, while pounding his racing unit, did even more damage to his wheat crop. And he wasn't the only farmer in the Colby area to suffer a setback from Mother Nature.

"It got beat up pretty damn bad," he said of the wheat.

Tubbs had damage to approximately 1,400 acres of wheat, and the rest of his family including cousins -- all of which he helps harvest -- had significant damage, too. He estimated nearly 9,500 acres of family crops were damaged in the storm as he waited Monday afternoon for word from insurance adjusters.

Temperatures in the 90s Monday didn't make for a soothing feeling either.

Tubbs said the region has benefited by recent rains that helped the crop snap out of a lingering drought.

Then the hail hit.

"What was looking bad had greened up, and we were excited about it," he said. "If we could have avoided that one day, the next 10 days were looking spot-free."

Tubbs said the majority of the large hail fell between Goodland and Colby, which he drove through. At his house in town, only a few hailstones fell.

"Last year, we didn't raise a crop because it was too dry," Tubbs said. "This year it was dry, then took a 180-degree turn. Then this hit."

He said recent drought in past years had lowered insurance coverage on crops.

This year's crop was looking good, but now the insurance might not cover what the wheat actually would have produced.

"I thought this year we would have bumped that up some," he said.

Randy Bowers, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Goodland, said the large hail didn't last long but did make a large swath through northwest Kansas.

"It was fairly quick," said Bowers, who said some baseball-size hail fell at the NWS office in Goodland. "It passed through fairly quickly. Then there was rain and lightning after that. There was some damage from the hail to the wheat and corn crops."