WENATCHEE, Wash. — Heavy rain and hail damaged wheat and canola crops east of Waterville, Wash., on Aug. 9-10 and likely damaged cherries in high elevations south of Wenatchee.
Flash flooding and mud and rock slides made several houses in south Wenatchee uninhabitable, and a residence east of Waterville was heavily damaged by flooding.
U.S. Highway 2 east of Waterville was closed by water, mud and debris for several hours. Lightning strikes caused small fires in wheat stubble but they were quickly extinguished.
Waterville plateau wheat growers are only a third of the way through harvest and are letting fields dry before resuming cutting. Damage apparently was light except in a narrow south-to-north swath just east of Douglas and about seven miles east of Waterville.
“I have three fields with damage. One is a total loss,” said Steve Thomsen, 57, who farms east of Douglas. Hail stripped wheat heads, leaving three to four kernels out of 50 or 60, he said.
“It will depend on the (crop insurance) adjuster whether we harvest or not. We’ll probably just cut and bale the straw to get it off the field,” Thomsen said.
“It’s a pretty huge hit. We will have to redo our summer fallow field prep (for seeding next year’s crop) because it was pounded that much,” he said. Fertilizer and dirt were washed away.
The storm hit hard in a three-mile radius just north of the highway and traveled north toward McNeil Canyon, he said.
The fields of Thomsen’s neighbor, Owen Viebrock, also sustained heavy damage. His wife, Misty Angus Viebrock, said their entire canola crop is lost but their wheat may be OK.
To the north in LaMoine, Neil B. Nelson was checking but suspected he had minimal to no damage to his fields.
“We are plowing, doing field prep today five miles away from where they were hit and it’s actually dusty,” Nelson said, noting the vagary of the storm.
“We dodged a bullet here,” said Gary Polson, who farms north of Waterville. “We had rain but nothing like those guys (Viebrock and Thomsen). We will let it dry out and hope to start up tomorrow.”
He said only a few growers had finished harvest before the storm.
On Stemilt Hill, south of Wenatchee, cherry grower Mike Harrison said he finished picking Sweetheart cherries on Thursday. He’s at 2,200 feet elevation, but at least three growers with higher elevation cherries were using helicopters to dry cherries Saturday. One of them, Kyle Mathison, could not be reached for comment.
“It came in waves. In some cases there was just enough time to get out with a helicopter and blow them off and then it rained again,” Harrison said.
High elevation, late season cherries are a small amount of the overall crop but usually bring good prices.