Howard buildings hit hard by derecho damage

Published: Jul. 6, 2022 at 8:11 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Winds of nearly 100 mph hour walloped trees, power lines, and poles, but spared houses, schools and churches in Howard, a town of 858 people about 70 miles northwest of Sioux Falls.

Most importantly, it spared humans. No deaths or even injuries were reported.

The city’s second derecho storm in two months, did not, however, spare the liquid fertilizer tank at the Howard Farmers Coop.

”There was an awful loud boom at one point in time, and everybody kind of took notice,” said Colby Tolk, the Howard Farmers agronomy and refined fuel manager.

But nobody was near the building. Tolk sent employees home, and some came to his house to shelter in his garage before the storm hit.

And the tanks?

Thankfully, they were empty, so we weren’t going to have any leakage,” Tolk said, “and then I saw the roof gone from the fertilizer plant, and thankfully that was gone as well.”

Luckily, fertilizing and spraying season is over, so there was no dangerous chemical product to spill, lose, or do damage.

Insurance will cover expenses, and the only thing Tolk said will truly hamper his business is the time it will take to find the labor and supplies to rebuild the fertilizer tower.

The town sign on the eastern edge of Howard had parts busted out. Part of the Howard Veterinary Clinic’s roof was also torn up. Most of the Dakota Tube and Iron building’s top flew off and landed as far as a quarter-mile away, but near no buildings or motorists on Highway 34.

Howard resident Justin Forster took that road home well ahead of the storm from his job in Madison, about 20 miles away. Forster learned his lesson from May 12, when he was driving through the derecho that also inflicted damage on some of Howard’s buildings.

Sitting from home on Tuesday, Forster saw rain flying horizontally.

”There had to be a good 15 to 30 minutes of just a few feet of visibility because there was so much debris moving through,” Forster said.

A town historian, Forster said it was the worst storm Howard has seen since a tornado rolled through over 50 years ago.

”It was unbelievable,” Forster said of Tuesday’s scene. “Just a couple hours after the storm let up, I took a quick drive around town and, just amazing. Crazy to see all the damage that occurred.”

And an old roller skating rink where Nathan Dawson’s family has stored vintage cars and a boat for 60 years was also pummeled.

Dawson’s grandfather bought the building, and the third-generation construction company Dawson co-owns, in 1962.

But Dawson said that while the old rink, and its toys inside, hold sentimental value, he is much more concerned about his employees — who he sent home to shelter well before the storm came — and helping clean up the rubbage all over Howard.

”As a construction business, we do demolition stuff, too,” Dawson said, ‘and we actually had a list of customers that have been waiting for us to get their storm damage cleaned up from the storm in May, so I’m sure we’ll just have another round of calls.”

While plenty of things in Howard will need repair, it was how prepared its residents were on Tuesday — thanks mostly to the May storm’s carnage — that kept the town safe despite plenty of wreckage.

By early Wednesday afternoon, that beaten-up town sign already had a new posting on the marquee in its lower right-hand corner: “Hashtag Howard Strong.”

“There’s been significant community support,” Forster said. “Aside from what the city is doing for the cleanup, you have people going out in neighbor’s yards and cleaning up. It’s definitely bringing out the best in the community.”

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