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Hail and wind on Friday ruined big chunk of apple crop in Knowlesville

Photo courtesy of Adam Krenning: The powerful winds on Friday evening around 6:30 snapped apple trees that were in a trellis system on Howlett Road. Toussaint Farms, which owns the orchard in the photo, estimates it lost 1,500 apple trees of very popular varieties, including Honeycrisp, Gala and SnapDragon.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 20 August 2019 at 1:45 pm

Photos courtesy of Kenny Haylett: These apples already started to rot on Monday, three days after being bruised and sliced by hail in Knowlesville. Kenny Haylett, the orchard manager for Haylett Enterprises, took the photo.

KNOWLESVILLE – A storm Friday evening felt like a tornado in the Knowlesville area and decimated many apple orchards due to the hail and high winds.

The storm caused the most damage between routes 31 and 18, with the area between Knowlesville and Kenyonville roads hit the hardest.

“It’s pretty sickening,” said Kenny Haylett, an orchard manager of a farm that had about 80 acres of apples destroyed. “We put all the time and effort and money into the growing the crop, and in two minutes it’s all gone.”

Haylett said the farm has about 120 other acres that are still good. The winds knocked many apples on the ground, while the hail bruised and cut the fruit. Three days after the storm the apples were already turning to rot on Monday.

The farm can’t just leave the orchards strewn with fallen apples “or else the rodents will come in,” Haylett said.

The storm hit in a narrow band. Haylett was on Knowlesville-Eagle Harbor Road when the heavy rain hit. On that road, it wasn’t very destructive. But on Howlett Road the storm took down trees. A barn fell over and a roof was blown off in Knowlesville.

Steve Nesbitt II said Nesbitt Farms had 50 acres of apples destroyed by the hail. Nesbitt was in Gaines when the storm hit.

“It was just a little bit of rain in Gaines,” he said. “In Knowlesville, it was terrible, a whole different world.”

Jeff Toussaint, owner of Toussaint Farms, said the high winds snapped 1,500 of his trees which were weighed down with nearly full grown apples.

Kenny Haylett holds an apple on Friday, soon after it was hit by hail. Three days later the apples were turning to rot.

Toussaint lost about 1 ½ to 2 acres of apple trees, and they were popular varieties such as Honeycrisp, SnapDragon and Gala. They were planted in high-density orchards with the trees held up in a trellis system.

But that wasn’t a match for the winds on Friday.

“A wicked narrow band came through,” Toussaint said. “The winds were unbelievable.”

Toussaint planted those trees in 2010 through 2013. They were just hitting peak production. Now he has to start over in that block on Howlett Road. “They were some of our most valuable apples,” he said. “It will be a number of years before it gets back.”

Toussaint said all of his acres were damaged on Howlett Road while 2/3 were affected on Culvert Road. The crop near Route 31 is fine, he said.

Toussaint said the growers “will now go into salvage mode and hope crop insurance kicks in.”

Haylett said the crop insurance is far less than selling the fruit at the market price.

The farmers also said Nice Farms was hit hard by the hail.

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