It disappeared as quickly as it came in.
That’s how Henry Frear described the EF-1 tornado that hit Grant County Saturday night.
“We knew that there were some storms coming through, but we didn’t think they’d be that hard,” Frear said. “All of a sudden, the wind really just kicked up something fierce. The power kind of flickered a few times and went completely out.”
Frear said he and his family consider themselves lucky. They were not hurt, and they only lost a barn that stood on the property for more than 100 years. However, there was some nostalgia tied to the building.
“I was talking to my dad about it, and he said it has been in every picture he has ever seen,” Frear said. “We have pictures from when Highway 61 was still a dirt road.”
Although the farm used to be known as Four Corners Ranch, they began renting the property out in 2009 and using the barn for storage.
“It was an old barn that we weren’t we weren’t putting to a lot of use at this point,” Frear said. “There are other people who lost stuff that they house their equipment in, their livelihood in. I think we were really lucky. Our neighbors got hit a lot worse”
He knew at least one neighbor’s feedlot had part of the building ripped off the structure. Steers were running on the roadway Saturday night.
Sadly, the Frears have plenty of experience when it comes to storm damage. They lost a barn in 2019, and another in 2015.
“It’s been pretty bad in the last 5 to 10 years here,” Frear said. “We’ve just been blasted with straight-line winds and tornadoes.”
Including the buildings impacted Saturday night, Frear could think of 16 buildings off the top of his head that had heavy structure damage in the recent years within a two-mile radius.
“I know there’s more than those,” Frear said.
The constant storms make Frear and others in the community hesitant for a solar panel project being proposed in the area. Frear said NextEra Energy Resources, LLC is proposing a 200-megawatt solar facility that will cover up to 2,000 acres on the southern and western borders of his farm.
“It is a really big patch of land, and the tornado would have run kitty-corner all the way through it for three to four miles,” Frear said. “We have had a lot of wind in the area. It seems to be getting worse, and the idea of putting solar panels in the area kind of spooks us a bit.”
One encouraging note from the devastating storms was the community rallied to help those impacted.
“I drove past my neighbors this [Sunday] morning, and I swear there were 10 to 15 vehicles there already and people picking stuff up,” he said.
The National Weather Service said three tornadoes touched down that night. The tornado near Potosi hit around 8:35 with winds reaching 100 miles an hour and a max width of 120 yards. It had a path of nearly 6.5 miles.
Another EF-1 hit in Oelwein, Iowa around 6:30 traveling four miles at a max width of 120 yards with peak winds at 107 miles per hour. That tornado formed near the Fayette County line and caused damage to apartment buildings and trees.
The third tornado was an EF-0. It came from the same storm system that produced the tornado on Oelwein and caused damage to several farms traveling 3.5 miles with 83-mile-an-hour winds and a width of 50 yards.