MOUNTAIN VIEW COUNTY — Olds-area farmer Brad Lutz is thankful he wasn’t hurt when his combine was hit by lightning during a rain and hail storm on Aug. 31.
Lutz says the strike occurred at about 5:50 p.m. as he and his wife Jennifer were finishing up combining a field of barley.
The Lutz family operates a farm growing barley, wheat and canola about 18 kilometres east of Olds.
“The rain had just started and we were heading across the field after getting rained out and yeah, I was just going to go park it; shut ‘er down for the evening,” Brad said during an interview.
“There was just a big white flash, a whitish-blue flash of light and all of a sudden everything just quit on the combine. It just came to a skidding stop and all the electronics just were gone.
“It was like, ‘Holy crap, my combine just blew up!’ That was my first thought and it's like, ‘I can’t believe it.’”
Fortunately, he wasn’t hurt.
“Nothing. Didn’t feel a thing,” he said.
Jennifer saw the strike happen too.
“We saw the storm coming and scrambled to finish the swath, unload grain, and get the trucks tarped in the hail. Brad had just dropped me off to pick up a truck and we were heading back across the field,” she wrote in an email.
“I saw a huge flash and thought the lightening hit the cell tower but then realized it had hit Brad. I think we were all in a bit of shock.”
She said the farm was hit by golf-ball sized hail that hammered buildings and pummeled surrounding vegetation.
Brad is currently discussing the damage incurred with insurance officials and John Deere representatives.
When asked what the combine is worth, he said $700,000 to $800,000, but also noted it’s about three years old.
“They’re going to have to haul it into John Deere and they figure it would be a couple of hundred hours of probably labour to inspect the combine for all the electronics and to see what kind of damages have been done to it,” he said.
He agreed that combines were a lot simpler to fix back in the 1960s or 1970s.
“You’d probably change the battery and maybe a starter,” he said with a short laugh. “But now, yeah, it’s got internal cameras and all kinds of things that monitor things, and computers.”
Brad estimated about a third of the crop still needed to be taken off.
He said he has a second combine and a clause in his insurance will enable him to rent another combine.
"It’s still early in the season for harvest really and you know with the drought and everything we weren't really expecting a great crop. Overall, we were quite happy with the way the crop was coming off,” Brad said.
“I’d say it was probably 60 per cent of a good crop, which is still disappointing and way below what average is and what we need to be profitable.
“But no, it’ll work out in the end, I guess.”
Jennifer said the drought and hail damage this year not only hit the Lutz family hard but it also has an impact on others around the world, because the food farmers grow can feed thousands of people.