Severe weather causes widespread flooding, sheep loss at Ohio farm


Note: These pictures are of the flooding in Wayne County, Ohio.

ASHLAND, Ohio — A major ice storm, followed by a major snow storm and then heavy rains proved too much for several low-lying fields across the region, and some livestock facilities also sustained damage.

Sheep farmer Keith Chamberlin of northeast Ashland County lost 10 registered bred ewes to hypothermia, despite his efforts to save as many as he could.

Chamberlin said he went to the barn the morning of Feb. 28 at 4 a.m. and things were OK. But by 6 a.m. the water and debris it carried were rising, so he moved the sheep to an upper barn out of harm’s way.

Kept rising

But the waters continued to rise, eventually reaching the upper barn, too, where they became damp and the sheep expired.

“This is tragic,” Chamberlin said. “This is the worst water I’ve had since 1969.”

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It wasn’t just the water he battled — it was the tree limbs, corn stalks, round bales and parts of his fence the water took along.

“You can’t imagine what was washing by here,” he said.

He’s missing about 30 round bales, and several of the bales are responsible for wiping out all of his fence — which he said cost him $3,500 and will need replaced.

Chamberlin sells market lambs and breeding stock, and is a well-known sheep judge. He’s fortunate to have survived the storm himself, recalling a numbness from his knees down, as he worked to clear the sheep from the water, which in some places was as much as four-and-a-half feet deep.

Ashland County Commissioners declared a state of emergency on March 3, an important step if the county and its farmers are to receive any relief funds for their losses.

Other damage

Various farmers shared flood damage on Farm and Dairy’s Facebook page, with images of flooded barns and pasture fence that had been washed away.

Several county fairgrounds also sustained flooding, including the Wayne County Fairgrounds, where the parking lot and area surrounding the horse and beef barns were flooded.

Crop damage is still uncertain, with the most likely places being those where ponding persists. Water in fields actually drained better than predicted, said Mike Gastier, Huron County Extension director.

“I don’t anticipate much damage to the wheat with a few exceptions to where the water is still ponded,” he said.

Chamberlin, whose farm is just off of Interstate 71, said the interstate fences remain flattened and he’s hopeful something can be done.

He said the flood was of historical proportions, and mostly beyond control.

“There wasn’t anything I could do to prevent this,” he said. “You can prepare for it to an extent, but no one expected that.”


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Chris Kick served Farm and Dairy's readership as a reporter for nearly a decade before accepting a job at Iowa State University Extension. An American FFA Degree recipient, he holds a bachelor’s in creative writing from Ashland University.



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