An Ill Wind…

You know, it’s not hard to grow native plants in a greenhouse.  We’ve had pretty good luck over the years…  But that assumes that you HAVE a greenhouse.  Which we did – until early this morning, when a grain bin smashed it to smithereens.

We had big thunderstorms roll through last night.  Other than having to get up and shut off the weather alert radio at 4am, I didn’t think much about the storms until our land manager called me early this morning.  Then my plans for the day changed on the spot and I went out to help the guys clean up.

Storm damage at our shop this morning.

Storm damage at our shop this morning.  The grain bin caused most of the damage as it flew across the lot.  The Nature Conservancy’s Platte River Prairies – Nebraska.

The bad news: A flying (bouncing?) grain bin crushed our greenhouse, the doors to our main shop building won’t open (our trucks are in there), we’ve got dinner plate-sized holes in the roof of that same building, and we lost a lot of shingles from the house our seasonal crew lives in.  Oh, and we lost power.

Our greenhouse was a total loss.

Our greenhouse was a total loss.  We had just put on new panels last fall…


We did manage to salvage most of our plants from the greenhouse.

We did manage to salvage most of our plants from the greenhouse.  They’re now riding out the winter storm in a nice warm garage.

The good news: We were able to get most of the plants out of the greenhouse and into another building before the winter storm hit this afternoon.  We’ve got tarps on the crew quarters roof, so it should be watertight for the near term.  Most impressively, the crew from Southern Public Power District was on site within a half hour after I called them and were busily replacing broken power poles and lines.  (THANKS GUYS!)

The rest of the repair work can wait until the snow, ice, and wind subside a couple days from now.

Stapling tarps to the roof of the crew quarters house at our shop facility.

Stapling tarps to the roof of the crew quarters.

It could have been a lot worse.  No one was hurt.  Our trucks, atvs, seed, and plants all seem to be ok.  Water damage in the house seems to have been limited to some small wet spots on the ceilings of two rooms.

And, while it was a high price to pay for it, I guess we did get some decent rain out of the storm…

This entry was posted in General and tagged , , , , , by Chris Helzer. Bookmark the permalink.

About Chris Helzer

Chris Helzer is the Director of Science for The Nature Conservancy in Nebraska. His main role is to evaluate and capture lessons from the Conservancy’s land management and restoration work and then share those lessons with other landowners – both private and public. In addition, Chris works to raise awareness about the importance of prairies and their conservation through his writing, photography, and presentations to various groups. Chris is also the author of "The Ecology and Management of Prairies in the Central United States", published by the University of Iowa Press. He lives in Aurora, Nebraska with his wife Kim and their children.

8 thoughts on “An Ill Wind…

  1. Glad to see you guys made it through with only structural damage. Sheet metal sure seems to be a great projectile! Don’t know how many stories I’ve heard of grain bins rolling around and crashing into other buildings.

  2. So sorry to see the damage! I hope your seedlings can find some safe harbor in another greenhouse. And I hope insurance can cover the repairs! Let us know if you run into any difficulties…perhaps we can help make up the difference!

  3. Oh no! This is bad news, but as you say Nelson and the others were safe and you rescued most of the plants! Will this be covered by insurance to repair. We love what you all do out there and want to send warm wishes. Let people know if there will be volunteer work needed!

  4. Life on the prairie just wouldn’t be any fun or interesting without a challenge. Sorry to see the greenhouse in that shape.

  5. I’d chain down the roof and sides of that other grain bin. If God decides to play frisbee with them then hopefully they won’t fly as far.


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