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Area farmers helping flooded Nebraska

April 9, 2019 GMT

When a deadly EF-4 tornado hit Van Wert in 2002, it barreled through Tony Miller’s farm “and took everything.”

Last week, Miller listened to a Nebraska farmer who had suffered similar devastation.

“I stood on a hill, and I saw my herd washed away,” the cattle farmer told Miller in a phone conversation.

“Do you know how hard that is?” Miller said Monday, while helping to organize an unusual donation drive among farmers in northwest Ohio and northeast Indiana.

Typically after a disaster, donation drives collect bottled water, nonperishable foods, clothing and household supplies. The things being sought for this drive are a little different.

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Hay bales. Cow and horse feed. Calf starter feed and milk replacer. Barbed wire. Fence posts. Wire cutters. Leather work gloves.

All are things Nebraska farmers need to recover after severe flooding hit the state last month. And the local farm community has responded.

On Monday morning alone, four flatbed loads of material came in, Miller said. By the end of a drop-off Saturday, “between the two locations, we had seven semis and eight trucks and gooseneck trailers,” said drive volunteer Sarah Noggle, Paulding County Extension director of agriculture and natural resources.

The group will have nearly two dozen semis and other trucks departing for Verdigre, Nebraska, this week, Miller said.

“There’s just an outpouring in the ag community. This morning, I was in tears, and they weren’t bad tears,” he said Monday.

Miller said the idea to help their Nebraska colleagues came about a week ago.  Since then, the Paulding County Extension Office at 503 Fairgounds Drive in Paulding and the Van Wert County Extension Office at 1055 S. Washington St. in Van Wert have agreed to serve as drop-off sites.

The Paulding County Area Foundation agreed to accept monetary and in-kind grain donations. And groups, including at least one local 4-H club, have rallied, Miller said.

Tristan Miller, 19, Tony Miller’s nephew, is helping even though he doesn’t remember the tornado. But he remembers hearing stories from family members about how people came from several surrounding states to help.

“We saw another group going out there on Facebook, and we said, we should do this,” he said Monday. “They had a lot of donations from around there for the human stuff, but we thought we could do some of the animal stuff.”

“They lost a lot of livestock. It’s a tragic thing,” he added. “It’s such a tragedy, really.”

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Tony Miller said the drive will end at noon Wednesday. The group plans to load items and leave Friday morning.

But Monday morning, he got word that a major storm with up to 9 inches of snow and possible blizzard conditions was being predicted to hit Nebraska, including the rural area in northeast Nebraska the group targeted, Thursday.

Tony Miller spent much of Monday working with contacts on Plan B, which might take them to a drop-off point from which supplies could later be distributed.

“I don’t want to put any of our drivers in harm’s way,” he said. “And out there, a lot of the roads are just stone and gravel and dirt, so we don’t know if we can even get there, even without snow.”

Tristan Miller said he wasn’t sure what conditions would be like when the group arrives. 

“I’m expecting to see a lot of standing water and tore-up roads and fields and pastures. I’m expecting to see kind of a mess out there,” he said.

“I think it’s going to be pretty amazing, pretty touching to know that we’re helping out.”

rsalter@jg.net