H&R Smith’s 66-year-old barn leveled in windstorm
By RICHARD SKELLY
ASBURY (Sept. 1, 2016) — For farmer Dick Smith, struck by a derecho or microburst storm four days after a tornado struck Tom Smith’s farm to the north in Lafayette, all he remembers hearing that Monday was a fierce, howling wind.
When he drove out of a smaller barn on his property at H&R Smith Farm, he saw his main barn, loaded with 6,000 bales of hay, completely destroyed, walls collapsed and off its foundation.
Smith, 66, said he’s been farming for 66 years, raised on his father Harry Smith’s farm.
They grow soybeans, feed corn and hay and straw on nearly 300 acres.
His mother’s house, his house and his son’s house sit on 104 contiguous acres on Old Main Street.
On the day of the storm, July 18, “it was about 3 in the afternoon, all of a sudden it started to rain pretty hard, there were thunderstorms in the forecast. The rain picked up and it was raining horizontal, so I ducked into my truck and pulled into this barn, backed in there, the rain picked up again and there was this big whooshing noise,” Smith recalled, gesturing to a much smaller barn that is meant only to protect an odd farm vehicle or two.
When he pulled into the smaller barn in his pickup truck, “You probably couldn’t see 10 feet in front of you.”
After the howling wind had subsided, he said he eased his truck out of the smaller barn.
“I looked out and saw the big barn was down. That barn was built in 1950; it’s one of the most stable structures on this property,” he said.
Smith added the barn was built with 12-inch concrete blocks and was built a short time before he was born in July 1950.
“I sat there in disbelief. All I heard was the wind, I did not hear the actual barn go down,” Smith said. Among the items in the barn was a now-smashed 1963 Checker automobile.
“It ripped up the cornfield pretty well,” he said. “My daughter in-law left the back door open at their house. At first because of the wind, she couldn’t get the back door open, so once she got it open, the wind sucked all the air out of the back side of their house.”
He noted his mother, Betty, 85, who occupies the house at the front of the property, was unaware of what had happened.
He sat there in disbelief for a few minutes then knocked on his mother’s door to relay the bad news.
“I was reading a magazine figuring I’ll wait this thing out,” Betty Smith recalled while making home-made meatballs in her kitchen.
“It was only a few minutes later, Dick walked in here with a terrible look on his face. Just like the day before; we had a close friend die the day before.”
“He said, ‘Mom, I guess you don’t know, our barn is gone.’ I never heard a thing, just the wind,” she added.
“Losing the barn itself hurts the most. That barn had 6,000 bales of hay and straw in there.” He added the insurance adjuster has been out and his agent has visited twice, so things are moving along by way of getting it back into operation as quickly as possible.
“Everybody seems to have seen and read more about it than I did. My wife is from New Yorkstate. She has relatives up near Binghamton who read about it and saw it on TV,” Smith said, chuckling.
Interestingly, just four days before, on July 14, a tornado struck another farm about a half-hour north on Route 519 in Lafayette. The farmers there were Tom Smith and his brother Dennis.
“Tom came down here within two or three hours of this happening here,” Dick Smith said, adding he was incredibly grateful for support from the fellow farmer.
Smith did acknowledge, sturdily built though it was by his late father Harry, the barn had the most surface area facing toward the west, from which the microburst came, rolling down a natural hill on the property.
“This barn made it through Hurricane Sandy just fine,” he noted.
Smith took a visitor into his mother Betty Smith’s kitchen.
She recalled she was on the phone with a friend on July 18. She wisely decided to get off the phone as a big thunderstorm was coming.
Betty Smith noted she was good friends with the other Betty Smith, the mother of Tom Smith, who runs the other farm that was struck by a tornado July 14. Tom’s mother Betty, passed away about a year ago, she said. Betty said she and Dick were heartened by the outpouring of support from neighbors, fellow farmers and the rest of the community in general.
“The next day we had this humongous food arrangement arrive from our neighbors down the street and we had neighbors and farmers and everybody coming, knocking on the door, calling us, reaching out to us on Facebook,” she said.
The collapsed barn is visible only in one direction, as one comes down the hill on Old Main Street in Asbury.
An hour or two after the microburst hit, a rainbow came out over the nearby hills.
“That’s God’s way of telling you that everything’s going to be OK,” she said.