Local News

Storm Proves Deadly For Vance County Cattle

Posted June 14, 2004

— Last Friday's storms took their toll on a beef cattle farm in Vance County. Eleven head of cattle died when lightning struck the tree they used for shade.

Monday, the owners were hoping to recover from the loss.

The tall shade tree was an inviting target for lightning.

"It must have really shot off the tree and hit the cow, too," witness Keith Hutson said.

Hutson said he was working at his home nearby when the storm blew in. He said he barely had time to find shelter himself before he heard a loud crack.

Then he saw several cows lying under the tree. One of them was in a ditch trying to get up.

Many of the calves lost their mother. Nine pregnant cows died, along with a bull and a calf.

A few surviving cows now walk with a limp.

Bonnie Howell, whose husband owns the farm, said the loss will exceed $10,000.

"Right now is the highest price that cows have been for years," Howell said.

The result could have been worse. There were no campers in the woods surrounding the pasture as there might normally have been.

One of the worst places to be during a lightning storm is under a tree. Even if someone is not near the trunk, electricity can get to that person through the root system.

"It being wide open and being the only tree and the highest thing, it was probably the worst place for (the cows) to be," Hutson said.

But it was the best place for the cattle to hide from the heat before the storm.

The rented bull that died was the only one covered by insurance.

The Howells can only rebuild the herd from the surviving cows -- and hope lightning will not strike twice.

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