Severe storms damage crops in the Northstate


WILLOWS, Calif. - Over the past week tornadoes touched down in parts of the Northstate - three in Glenn County Wednesday and one in Butte County Saturday night - but it's the weather associated with the storms that may have a bigger impact in the long run, especially on crops.

Trees uprooted, some split in half, evidence remains of a tornado that struck Jeremiah Spooner's almond orchard last Wednesday.

But Spooner says that damage only brushes the surface.

"The 75 trees we lost in the tornado is really insignificant," he said. "That's a very small picture of the actual damage with that storm and the hail that came with it. The hail is what will always do damage to your crop."

Many of the freshly pollinated almonds have been knocked from the trees in orchards around Glenn County, and likely beyond.

But Spooner says those are only part of the losses farmers are expecting to suffer.

"These nuts are actually lost," Spooner said as he points to a branch with bruised almonds. "So what you do is if you take this nut and then you crack it open, you'll see bruising. See in this case the nut is bruised and it's already discolored, and this nut will fall off the tree in two, three, four weeks."

With harvests not expected until the fall, that's way too early for almonds to drop.

And unfortunately Spooner's hopes aren't set high.

"We're hoping that there's still 50 percent of the crop on the trees, whether or not there is, we don't know," he said.

For Spooner's 17,600 tree farm a 50 percent loss equals about $313,000.

He's filed a crop insurance claim to cover it.

Obviously he wasn't the only one hit, and Spooner said there are about 750 acres of almond orchards in his area.

"Those are probably all affected by the hail storm."

A 50 percent loss to all of that acreage, an estimated 105,750 almond trees, would total more than $1.85 million.

But that's only about two square miles of Glenn County.

"I have no idea what the rest of the farmer's across the county are looking like but I would imagine it's significant," Spooner said.

And with storms striking up and down the Northstate, there's no telling how far the impact goes.

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