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June 23, 2020

Monday night storm takes Opal man’s “breath away”

Photo/Don Del Rosso
Rick Crofford with his blueberry plants Saturday morning — before the storm damage.
Contributed Photo
Mr. Crofford’s corn, after the storm’s beating Monday night.
There was hail and rain and wind and they were coming horizontally. The winds were probably 60 to 70 mph. It took my breath away.
— Rick Crofford
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
Bush-hogging his property Monday night, the Opal-area man never expected the gray sky to unleash a ferocious storm.

“That was the strange thing,” recalled Rick Crofford, who cultivates about three acres of fruit and vegetable plants on his seven-acre property off of Saint Pauls Road. “You couldn’t see it coming. You saw clouds. Until I saw a bolt of lightning, I didn’t think it was going to rain. But that’s when I headed for home.”

In parts of Fauquier, the severe weather knocked down trees and caused power outages that lasted for hours.

The “microburst” possibly caused $2,500 of damage to his crops, said Mr. Crofford, a Virginia Department of Transportation environmental manager based in Culpeper who years ago started “Berry Simple Farm” to help pay for his four children’s college educations and because he likes to work the land.

The operation clears about $7,000 per year, he said.

Fauquier Agricultural Extension Office Agent Tim Mize on Tuesday morning randomly talked by phone with county farmers about the storm.

They reported rain, wind and a fallen tree but not much else, Mr. Mize said.

“I haven’t heard of anything else major yet,” he said. “Who knows, though.”

The kind of storm that Mr. Crofford described happen with some frequency.

“I wouldn’t say they’re weird,” the extension agent said. “We tend to look at damage as a countywide issue. But you get these thunderstorms that come through — they’re microbursts or wind sheers in a localized area for a few seconds or minutes — and they play havoc.”

In their wake, they leave some areas ravaged and others unscathed, Mr. Mize said.

“You look at them on radar, and they’re moving all around,” he said. “And they’re real intense in a couple of places and somewhere else there’s nothing going on.”

Mr. Crofford grows a wide range of vegetables, including four “main cash crops” — blue berries, asparagus, ginger and fingerling potatoes, most of which he sells to 4-P Foods at Vint Hill.

A food “hub,” 4-P buys produce from farmers and sells it directly to consumers and wholesale customers.

In a phone interview Tuesday, Mr. Crofford, 57, talked about the storm, its effects and the future.

• When did the storm hit?
About 5 p.m.

• How long did it last?
The intense part was probably about 10, 15 minutes.

• What did it look and sound like?
There was hail and rain and wind and they were coming horizontally. The winds were probably 60 to 70 mph. It took my breath away. I was bush-hogging. I had to actually turn around because I couldn’t breathe.

I pulled my tractor in under the shed, and then I got in my little greenhouse.

• What immediately came to mind?
“Oh my God. I’m probably not in a safe spot. This greenhouse could get sucked up and blown over.” So I had my escape route planned — run like hell out of the back of it to my house — as I watched the structure to make sure it wasn’t about to go.

I don’t get scared that often, but I was a little scared there for a bit — with the wind, because I couldn’t see if there was a tornado coming or what. All I could see was the hail and the rain and the wind coming horizontally.

• What did your fields look like after the storm?
Pretty much all of my vegetable plants were flattened or shredded from the hail.

Half of the blueberries are on the ground. There weren’t any trees damaged, it seemed like on my property. But as I drove up the neighborhood, there were all kinds of trees that toppled.

• What and how much did you lose?
That’s yet to be determined. But I think some of the vegetables could be a 100-percent loss. But then some of them, I think, will come back OK.

• What survived?
I think my corn’s going to survive. I think my potatoes are going to survive. And it’s questionable about the blueberries that are still on the plants, because I ate a few of them and they seem like they’ve been pelted with hail and been kind of bruised or softened.

Blueberries on the ground are bird feed. It’s all part on nature, I guess.

• What about the financial loss?
In the neighborhood of $1,000, in blueberries alone, which is significant because I usually average about $3,000 a year in sales.

• Have you experienced anything like this before?
Not to this extent. The last big wind storm — the tornado-type thing we had earlier in the spring, before things were really growing — destroyed one of my hoop houses. But this was the worst crop loss I’ve had.

• So now what?
It’s the life of a farmer. You just try to make amends and salvage what you can, move on and hope it doesn’t happen again for another couple of years, or ever. It’s what my grandmother told me: If you think you’ve got it bad, look over your shoulder. I may have it bad, temporarily, but somebody’s got it worse.

Contact Don Del Rosso at Don@FauquierNow.com or 540-270-0300.
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nidaamber5 · June 29, 2020 at 3:37 am
i just love the lyrics of the professional isolation this is who they the become same and the content writers in dubai provide the best help where everything is just satisfying.
gkiltz · June 24, 2020 at 9:37 am
And right down in Remington, this was your typical nuisance summer afternoon thunderstorm.
Only thing remarkable was that the thunder was pretty much non-stop for several minutes, and there was some spectacular lightning
natalie123 · June 24, 2020 at 7:37 am
her breath apprehensive that the Preacher would pull his head ... the names of the considerable number of heavenly bodies and stars of the night sky. ... ninth thing that Opal got some answers concerning her mother was that ... time they took him to chapel, the Preacher urgent assignment help tied him up ... He was a rich man, and Miss Franny ... After the tempest, Winn-Dixie acted like his ordinary.
Kaitlyn · June 24, 2020 at 4:41 am
It was really bad news. The effort of that man was destroyed by the storm. Hope Support will be provided by the government to reach the loss faced because of the storm. Life of all the farmers which is clearly shown in this news cbd supplements online
fauquierflash · June 23, 2020 at 4:56 pm
I'm about a mile South of Opal on Rt 17 and it came thru here like a Freight Train.

Sorry about Mr. Crofford but at least we can repair the damage.
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