Summer storms bring destruction and relief to farmers across Wisconsin

Colleen Kottke
Wisconsin State Farmer

While some farmers in central and northwestern Wisconsin prayed for rain, others in the southern half of the state have had enough.

Fieldwork slowed to a crawl last week as Wisconsin was pummeled by damaging storms that produced 19 confirmed tornadoes that flattened fields and dropped between 4-12 inches of rain across the southern half of the state, causing major flooding.

Tornadoes damaged several farm buildings and sheds and uprooted countless trees in Fond du Lac and Dodge Counties.

More thunderstorms rolled through the state over Labor Day weekend, raising already high rivers and streams even higher and causing flash flooding in some areas.

The State Emergency Operations Center said flood watches have been posted throughout parts of southern, central and northwest Wisconsin.

Over in Vernon County, a field reporter noted that two dams were compromised in the heavy deluge and subsequent flooding, resulting in crops and pastures in low-lying areas being completely flooded.

"The crops were either covered with debris or gone," wrote the reporter in the Wisconsin Crops and Condition report. "The amount of damage due to flooding is still to be determined, as there are continued forecasts of more rain throughout the week.
In Vernon County, state emergency officials said that a mudslide blocked both lanes of Highway 35 near Genoa and the creamery plant in the Village of Chaseburg was closed due to flooded roads.

Floodwaters are heavy throughout the region.

Early estimates of damage to public infrastructure from the last two weeks are approximately $51 million. This does not include damage incurred by farmers or other private property owners
High winds accompanying tornadoes in Fond du Lac and Dodge County caused widespread crop damage.

"Crops look rough right now. We are still waiting to determine the full effects of the storm," said the Dodge County reporter. Marquette and Waushara counties also reported crop damage.

Crops are flattened by high winds Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018, on Cattauragus Road northeast of Waupun, Wisconsin. Severe weather raked across Fond du Lac County during the afternoon with a possible tornado touching down in some locations.

There was enough rain to go around for everyone in Wisconsin last week, bringing much needed moisture in St. Croix, Clark and Rusk Counties, that had reported that crops were experiencing stress from lack of rain. 

"The county received widespread rain for the first time in weeks," said the Clark County reporter. "Corn and soybeans were showing signs of stress before the rain, and some fields may not recover."

Hay and pastures that had gone dormant during August have finally greened up again following recent rainstorms.

"Time will tell how much damage was done to grain crops," the St. Croix County reporter observed.

A grain semi trailer lies tipped over amongst a pile of debris Wednesday, August 29, 2018 at W12072 Hemp Road near Waupun, Wisconsin.

According to the report, 86 percent of the corn has reached the dough stage, over a week ahead of last year. Just 54 percent of corn was dented while 8 percent had been reported as reaching maturity.

Corn silage was 7 percent harvested, six days ahead of schedule compared to last  year. Depending on weather conditions, the reporter in Manitowoc County expected the silage harvest to commence on Sept. 12.

Further north along the Lake Michigan shoreline,a reporter in Door and Kewaunee counties noted that the corn silage harvest had started on lighter soils, and reported that moisture was already down to 50 percent.

Nearly 96 percent of soybeans were setting pods while leaves were turning colors on 26 percent of the crop. The soybean condition was rated 73 percent good to excellent.

Oats harvested for grain was reported as 84 percent complete. The potato harvest is nearly two weeks behind with just 23 percent of the potato harvest completed.

In many counties including Sheboygan and Ozaukee, constant rainfall and wet field conditions prevented farmers from entering fields to start the fourth cutting of alfalfa. 

The report said the third cutting of alfalfa was 90 percent complete (four days behind last year), while the fourth cutting was 36 percent complete..