Local News

Hail Storm Ruins Johnston County Tobacco Field

Posted August 6, 1997 12:00 a.m. EDT

— A strong line of thunderstorms made their way across south-central North Carolina Tuesday, leaving in their way crop destruction farmers consider worse than Hurricane Fran.

WRAL'sMark Robertssays in nearly eight years of reporting on the state's tobacco crop, he's never seen the amount 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's Crossroads into a limp and shredded mess.

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

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

Although Johnson has insurance, he says it won't pay nearly what he could'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 it through the year without hail. Anyone who gambled on Tuesday's storm certainly lost.

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

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