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Hailstorm damages crops in Jefferson County

August 11, 2008|By DAVE McMILLION

MIDDLEWAY, W.Va. -- Thousands of dollars worth of crops were destroyed Sunday afternoon when a storm throwing down penny-sized hail crossed through the center of Jefferson County, according to farmers and a National Weather Service spokeswoman.

In the Middleway area, the storm left behind "drifts" of ice along Middleway Pike and shredded corn leaves hanging on stalks.

"It ripped it up pretty good," said farmer Larry Magaha, who has 40 acres of corn near the intersection of Darke Lane and Middleway Pike, also known as W.Va. 51.

Magaha said Sunday evening he probably will not know until today how badly the corn was damaged.

Magaha said he was worried about the damaged leaves not allowing the corn plants to continue photosynthesis, which allows for the continued development of the corn.

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At nearby Tudor Hall Farm along Middleway Pike, farmer Bill Grantham said the hail destroyed 1 and 1/2 acres of his pumpkins and a half acre of squash.

Grantham, who sells vegetables at local farmers markets, estimated his losses at between $2,000 and $3,000.

Magaha said he has crop insurance to help protect him against crop damage but Grantham said he did not have any because insurance is not available for vegetables.

"There wasn't anything really you could do," said Grantham, except pray.

Jefferson County was apparently the only place locally where hail fell, said Jackie Hale, spokeswoman for the National Weather Service.

The only other places receiving hail were areas like Shenandoah, Va., and New Market, Va., Hale said.

At 3:02 p.m., a trained weather spotter saw hail the size of three-quarters of an inch in the Middleway area, Hale said.

"That's pretty big. That's penny-sized hail," Hale said.

The hail was caused when a cold front crossed through the area, causing storms that spawned high winds and lightning, Hale said.

Grantham said there are two types of hail and both were falling.

One type is a round hail and the second is a flat, jagged type that is like a "piece of glass," Grantham said.

It appears the hail's path was about three miles wide and hit about a dozen farms from Box Factory Road on the western edge of the county to Darke Lane, Grantham said.

Del. Bob Tabb, also a farmer who raises nursery stock, lives along Darke Lane but the hail did not reach him.

"That could have put me out of business," said Tabb, D-Jefferson.

Grantham said he has not witnessed hail that damaging in 40 years.

The Chambersburg, Pa., area had a period of hail, but no reports of significant damage were received regarding the pellets, according to a Franklin County (Pa.) 911 dispatcher.

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