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Hail batters crops in Gage County, smashes windshields and dings cars in Lincoln

Hail batters crops in Gage County, smashes windshields and dings cars in Lincoln

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Large hail stones
DJ Van Slyke, 4, marvels at finding hail stones nearly golf ball size Sunday evening near 14th & Superior. (Photo courtesy of Andy Ringsmuth)

Golf-ball sized hail wiped out soybean and corn fields in Gage County Sunday.

"The beans looked like they've been mowed off 2 or 3 inches off the ground. You don't see a leaf at all," said Dennis Ebbers, who farms on the east edge of Adams.

Farmers south and west of his place got it worse.

"The corn crop is not looking so good. You go a couple of miles south and it's real bad," Ebbers said.

Paul Hay, extension educator for Gage County, confirmed the damage. Monday morning, he was assessing damage where he could, but muddy conditions kept him out of many fields.

"We've got some very severe damage. We had corn chest high and shoulder high and quite a few fields in the center of this storm are lost at this point," Hay said.

Hailstones ranged from golf- to baseball-sized and smashed windows in houses and cars. Hay said the damage started east of U.S. 77 and continued across the middle of Gage County east into Johnson County. In some places, damage was several miles wide.

The soybeans look "pretty bleak" because a lot of stems were bruised by hail, he said.

"All the leaves are gone, You've got sticks out there."

Hay said he ran into many frustrated farmers Monday, who worked hard to get their crops to this point, only to see them gone in minutes.

"They're mad. Really, they're going to be mad. Even their wives are going to dodge them for a couple of days," he said.

Softball- to half-dollar- sized hail fell northeast of Wilber Sunday in an area where Lancaster, Gage and Saline counties meet, said Saline County Emergency Manager B.J. Fictum. No damage assessments were available.

A flood warning was issued Monday morning for Turkey Creek, which Fictum said was "sneaking out of its banks."

He said it likely won't crest until Wednesday.

In Lincoln, Police Officer Katie Flood said 23 police cruisers in an uncovered lot near 27th and Holdrege streets were damaged by hail during the overnight storm. The extent of the damage was still being assessed Monday.

Troy Bornemeier, a sales clerk at Wolfe Ace Hardware, said customers were talking about golf-ball sized to quarter-size hail in north Lincoln.

"We sold the heck out of sump pumps this morning," he said.

State Farm Insurance in Lincoln got 300 auto claims between Friday evening and Monday morning from across the state, said spokeswoman Ann Avery. Of those, 260 were from the Lincoln area, she said.

During that same period, the company got 164 home claims, 140 of which were from the Lincoln area. All were due to hail damage, she said.

"I tell you what we had a doozy last night," said Dave Eastlack, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Valley.

Law enforcement reported baseball-sized hail two miles north of Lincoln at 8 p.m. Sunday, Eastlack said. Golf-ball sized hail and tennis-ball sized hail were reported in Lincoln between 8:05 and 8:45 p.m.

"I can't recall seeing a hail-maker like that," said Eastlack, who's been with the weather service for 16 years. "That was something else. That was a pretty impressive storm."

Lancaster County Emergency Management Director Doug Ahlberg said one of his deputy directors reported 2 1/2-inch hail near Raymond.

Salt Creek and its tributaries were running high Monday morning but were still within their banks, Ahlberg said.

Lancaster County Sheriff Terry Wagner said deputies received reports of water reaching the road in spots including Nebraska 79 at Branched Oak Road, 112th and Holdrege streets and Saltillo Road near 27th Street.

"People just need to be aware -- especially on highways, where they're driving 60 miles an hour -- that they can very quickly come upon high water," he said. "And at that speed, it can either kill the engine or hydroplane the vehicle and lose control. I think the key here is to slow down and make sure (drivers) are not putting themselves in danger."

Reach Algis J. Laukaitis at 402-473-7243 or Reporter Cory Matteson contributed to this report.

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