Hail cannon helps Columbiana Co. farm fight severe weather

Dan Simmons uses the rare piece of equipment at Peace Valley Orchards farm in Rogers

ROGERS, Ohio (WYTV) – Weather can be make-or-break for local farms, as one bad storm can wipe out a lot of crops.

WYTV spent some time at two Valley farms Saturday — and they prepare for severe weather completely different ways. One hopes for the best, while the other has a piece of equipment that’s saved a lot of crops over the years.

“I have five weather apps on my phone,” Dan Simmons said.

Simmons knows the weather plays a huge factor in farming.

He grows apples and peaches at Peace Valley Orchards in Rogers and severe weather is his number one rival.

“If you have 30 seconds to one minute of hail, your crops are pretty much toast until the next year,” Simmons said.

That’s why over 20 years ago, Simmons took weather matters into his own hands and bought a hail cannon.

It’s a piece of equipment that sends a concussive wave — which covers 125 acres — into a storm every four seconds. Simmons says the wave shakes extra water off hail stones in the sky, keeping them small enough to melt before they hit the ground.

“Just two or three weeks ago, we had severe storms come through and there was hail all around us,” Simmons said. “And we ran this for half an hour and we had no hail.”

Rick Molnar of Molnar Farms says they aren’t big enough to justify buying something like a hail cannon.

“We just kinda really hope for the best,” he said.

His farm in Poland grows a variety of things, so Molnar says hail would be devastating.

“Really, really big hail storm — big diameter hail — would do a lot of damage,” Molnar said. “Our tomatoes are really far along, so they’re getting softer — peaches the same way. Peppers, it would flatten.”

Simmons says his hail cannon is one of two in Ohio.

His neighbors tell him they always know when severe weather is on the way, because that’s when he runs the cannon.