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By Kathy Hedberg, Lewiston Tribune, Idaho
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Aug. 19--Clearwater County commissioners Monday declared a state of emergency after farmers on the Weippe Prairie suffered severe damage to spring wheat fields from a hailstorm.

Commission Chairman Don Ebert said while the storm Thursday pelted many areas with heavy rain, those living in the Fraser area south of Weippe were gunned with golf ball-sized hailstones.

"It was bad. It was an unbelievably nasty storm in just a very isolated area," Ebert said. "I was in Weippe and we had a storm, but not what they got" in Fraser.

Besides extensive hail damage to crops, Ebert said some structures also were hit. The state of emergency declaration by the commissioners, he said, is intended to bolster an attempt by the federal Farm Service Agency to obtain financial assistance for farmers whose crops were destroyed.

In a letter to Gov. C.L. (Butch) Otter asking for support, the commissioners said it was reported that 33 percent of all spring wheat in the county and 76 percent of all hard red winter wheat was damaged by the storm.

Karel Wemhoff, county executive director for the Farm Service Agency in Clearwater and Lewis counties, said most insurance adjusters have not had a chance yet to evaluate the extent of the damage.

"But it looks like somewhere about 1,200 acres of spring wheat got hit and the damage was pretty bad," Wemhoff said.

The storm, she said, appeared to start Thursday near Keuterville in Idaho County, then blew across the Camas Prairie into Lewis County and turned north into Clearwater County.

The worst hail was reported along the Lower Fords Creek Road east to Fraser Park.

"It was kind of spotty but it did take out a lot of acres," she said. She spoke to some farmers Monday morning "and some are reporting pretty seriously to being wiped out. Others were saying it wasn't quite so bad because they were on the edge of the storm."

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Wemhoff said it is uncertain what kind of programs are available to help farmers who have had crop loss.

"In the past we had a standing disaster program but that was taken away in the 2014 farm bill," she said. A request will be made to the U.S. secretary of Agriculture for assistance, "and he approves or not. We more than meet the qualifications for a designation that opens up for any kind of disaster aid. It all depends on Congress."

Wemhoff said crop damage in Lewis County has also not been fully calculated, but the best guess is that 10,000 acres there were hit by the hailstorm.

Lewis County Commission Chairman Carroll Keith said the commission took no action on the matter during its regular weekly meeting Monday.

"We don't have any hard information as to the number of acres or the dollar amounts that may be involved," Keith said. "When we get that information we'll make a decision at that time."

Hedberg may be contacted at [email protected] (208) 983-2326.


(c)2014 the Lewiston Tribune (Lewiston, Idaho)

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Distributed by MCT Information Services

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