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Hail Storm Ruins Johnston County Tobacco Field

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A 15 minute hail storm left this tobacco field in shreds near Blackmon's Crossroads in Johnston County
FOUR OAKS — A strong line of thunderstorms made their way across south-central NorthCarolina Tuesday, leaving in their way crop destruction farmers considerworse than Hurricane Fran.

WRAL'sMark Robertssays in nearlyeight years of reporting on the state's tobacco crop, he's never seen theamount of damage done to the golden leaf in such a short amount of time.It only took 15 minutes to reduce a field of tobacco near Blackmon'sCrossroads into a limp and shredded mess.

The soybean fields look like they've been plowed under. Then there's thetobacco. Acre after acre has been stripped clean, only after a fewminutes of golf-ball-sized hail that wiped many farmers out. They'restill trying to pick up the pieces of a storm many long-time farmers saythey've never seen the likes of.

M.G. Johnson, a farmer himself, says Tuesday's storm hit him harder thanHurricane Fran did in terms of destruction. Golf-ball-sized hail poundedFour Oaks for some 15 minutes. There's nothing left standing in theBlackmon's Crossroads area. Johnson lost more than seven acres.

Although Johnson has insurance, he says it won't pay nearly what hecould've made if the crop was taken to market. That's the biggest gamble.Many farmer's don't take out hail insurance hoping they can make itthrough the year without hail. Anyone who gambled on Tuesday's stormcertainly lost.

At the time of this report, USDA officials were already on hand to surveythe damage done in Johnston County. They'll decide what assistance, ifany, can be provided to farmers who lost much of their livelihood in amatter of minutes.

There's only one small positive in Blackmon's Crossroads. M.G. Johnsonhad already harvested about half of his crop. It's sitting safely insidean area barn. Much of the money making leaf was still out to pasture.Today it's destroyed.

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