|By Bill McAuliffe and Mike Hughlett
Star Tribune, Minneapolis
July 21--One of the most intense heat waves in recent years loosened its grip on Minnesota on Wednesday, but not without costing farmers thousands of cattle, turkeys and hogs.
The five-day siege of heat brought record dew points, heat indexes and overnight temperatures to the Twin Cities and elsewhere across Minnesota.
The stress on farm animals caused a die-off worse than some growers have seen in nearly 30 years, said Byron Hogberg, Farm Services Administration director in Renville County in southwestern Minnesota. The greatest number of losses may be in turkeys.
"There’s a lot of dollars out there that have been lost," said Hogberg, adding that carcass processors in the area have run out of capacity to take more dead animals.
The losses are badly timed for cattle producers, given that prices are currently $1,000 to $2,000 per cow, 25 percent to 30 percent higher than a year ago.
The highest temperature of the heat wave in the Twin Cities was recorded Monday, when the official reading hit 98 degrees; it reached 96 on Wednesday. The "feels- awful" measurements -- a dew point of 82 Tuesday and heat indexes approaching 120 -- masked the fact that not one daytime high temperature record was broken, and in the Twin Cities the temperature never reached 100. The high humidity actually served to suppress soaring temperatures, National Weather Service meteorologist Chris Franks said.
But it was miserable nonetheless.
"Demoralizing and overwhelming" was how Wendell Roy of Minneapolis described the heat wave while waiting in 95-degree sun for a light-rail train at the Metrodome station on Wednesday.
Relief in the form of a cold front finally flowed across the Dakotas toward Minnesota late Wednesday.
Twin Cities commuters will encounter a 7 a.m. temperature of 70, and the dew point is expected to drop to a relatively crisp 59 by 3 p.m. -- the first time the dew point will have been below 60 since 10 a.m. July 14. The high Thursday is expected to be 87, about four degrees above normal.
"Pretty near perfect," Roy said of the forecast, noting his plans to go camping this weekend.
As of dinnertime Wednesday, about 750 Xcel Energy customers were without power in the seven-county metro area, Xcel Energy spokesman Tom Hoen said. They were scattered all over the region, and as many as 80 work crews were attempting to replace fuses and repair failed cables as quickly as possible. Hoen noted, however, that the workers also were dealing with the heat and humidity (and full working gear). "It’s not conducive to working quickly," he said.
On the farm, losses have been worse than might be expected, particularly to turkeys, given that the heat wave has been so sustained and temperatures have remained so high at night, said Steve Olson, executive director of the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association. Olson said he has heard of one grower in southwestern Minnesota who lost 45,000 birds, which are worth $10 to $25 a piece.
Cattle and hog farmers have been sprinkling their animals heavily in recent days to reduce heat stress, spokesmen for those grower groups said.
Across South Dakota, up to 1,500 head of cattle died from the heat.
Heat relief is coming, but too late for some Minn. farmers
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