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Tornado damage: hail destroys cotton, tomatoes, wheat

National Weather Service confirms small tornado that appears to have destroyed one pistachio tree and significantly damaged another one near Lemoore, Calif.

The National Weather Service confirmed an EF0 tornado east of Huron, Calif. in mid-May that looks to have briefly touched down on the edge of Ted Sheely’s pistachio orchard.

Wind damage from the severe thunderstorm significantly damaged one mature pistachio tree and destroyed another, snapping it just above the ground and tossing it about 100 feet, according to Sheely.

More significant and widespread was the hail damage from the storm that the National Weather Service said evolved from two storms that combined over the southern San Joaquin Valley near Huron and Lemoore on May 19.

Kris Mattarochia, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Hanford, Calif. said the hail wasn’t large by meteorological standards – perhaps a half-inch in diameter at the most. What did the damage to Sheely’s crops, including cotton, onions, processing tomatoes and pistachios, was the volume of hail, which accumulated to at least an inch and was responsible for at least one traffic accident in the area.

Sheely gave Western Farm Press a tour of his fields, highlighting damage he says he’s never seen in such a large scale since he began farming in California decades ago. The hail damage goes on for miles, affecting several thousand acres of row and field crops, and orchards.

“The devastation is unbelievable,” Sheely said.

Due to the timing of the event Sheely will not replant cotton this year.

“The last day for planting Pima was over a month ago,” he said.

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