Academic journal article ABA Banking Journal

Ill Wind Blows Good-And Bad-For Clarkfield

Academic journal article ABA Banking Journal

Ill Wind Blows Good-And Bad-For Clarkfield

Article excerpt

CLARKFIELD, MINN.--Through early May, area farmers still had their fingers crossed. As they planted their corn, and then their soybeans, drought conditions continued, with unusually hot weather roasting the area into the May 6 weekend.

And then, at about 8 P.M. on Sunday, May 7, all hell broke loose.

Steve Lindholm, president of Farmers & Merchants State Bank, and his wife, Mary Jane, heard the wind first.

"It sounded like an express train was coming through," says the banker.

Then they saw how the trees in the grove behind their home were shaking. Some big limbs snapped off the box elders. Lindholm, remembering the tornado that hit Clarkfield in 1992, began to wonder if the couple ought to retreat to the basement. Twisters don't hit Minnesota as often as some of the other states in the country's midsection, but Lindholm knows enough about them to respect a potential threat.

Then it began to rain, hard and fast. And there was also hail-golf-ball-sized stones that took out a couple of the windows in the Lindholms' barn. The stones came down in a ten-mile-wide swath. A few shingles came off in the high winds, too. But Lindholm never actually saw the twister.

But other parts of Clarkfield and surrounding areas weren't so fortunate. Approximately 20 farms and homes were hit by the tornado.

"It was almost like the tornado just bounced around," says Lindholm. Some spots in the path sustained little or no damage, others bore the full power of the funnel.

One home's windows imploded, apparently from the tornado's vacuum effect, said Lindholm, and one home was completely destroyed. Five miles of electrical poles were snapped off at ground level like children's building toys, trees came down all over the place, and, here and there, old barns were flattened. While there were no injuries to humans, says Rich Kvols, extension agent for Yellow Medicine County, a few horses were killed when their barns collapsed.

On some farms, empty grain bins made of corrugated metal were blown over, while others in the path of the tornado were crushed like huge aluminum beer cans at a giant's picnic. "On one farm," north of Clarkfield, says Kvols, "a machine shed was blown right into the Minnesota River." Paul Wilson, one of the bank's farm loan officers, had the heavy metal doors of his own equipment shed blown off, one door carried away from the structure and the other blown inside.

A sad tradeoff with nature

"This storm has been a bittersweet kind of thing," says Kvols. Parts of Yellow Medicine County and environs received as much as five inches of rain before the storm subsided, he notes, something the area's farmers have been awaiting for some time. Only about an inch worth of the rain actually soaked in, says Kvols, because the soil was so dry and because the rain came so hard and fast--yet it was an inch more than the farmers had had earlier.

"We aren't out of the woods by any means yet," Kvols said, even with an additional inch that fell since the storm. The area's soil still has a long way to go before its moisture is completely recharged.

It's too bad, Kvols continues, that getting the rain had to be accompanied by so much damage to some folks' places. Still, says Kvols, most farmers seemed to be taking things in stride. "I would hope the storm wouldn't be the straw that broke the camel's back for any of them," says Kvols.

The barns that came down, often very traditional and picturesque to look at, won't be replaced in kind, Lindholm predicts.

"Nobody rebuilds barns anymore, because it costs too much," says Lindholm. "They just put up a metal pole shed. …

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