Surviving a Microburst at Ethington Dairy


On the morning of June 30th 2016 Jacob Ethington of Ethington Dairy left for work, a little early, to tackle the ‘few extra things’ on his to-do list. While watching the early morning sunrise, his dairy manager called to give him an update on the storm that had rolled through the previous night.

The monsoon storm brought with it the typical wind, dust, and rain. It also came with a dangerous microburst. A microburst is a localized column of sinking air in a thunderstorm. When the air meets the ground it sends straight line winds out at speeds of 100 mph or more. Some microbursts can cause destruction just as devastating as a tornado. With Arizona’s open-air barns, it can be hard to seek shelter from blowing debris. Microbursts come with little to no warning, so there’s no time to prepare.

As he drove into work, wondering what he may find, he saw power poles snapped in half along Arizona Farms Road. His first concern was that the power may be out at the dairy and he would find some uncomfortable cows.

“Pulling up to the dairy and seeing the destruction, I wondered if all my employees were ok and if all my cows were ok. Once everyone was accounted for, we just had to figure out where to start.” explained Jacob.

Among the devastation at the dairy was tin roofs twisted, ripped, and thrown from the shades and commodity barn. Tractor windows were blown out and the stock trailer, lying on its side, rolled 30 feet. The storm tore the tarp off the silage pit, but somehow managed to leave the tires. The most emotional damage was to the calf hutches. The hutches were lifted right off the calves and thrown about. The calves were defenseless from the storm but all managed to survive. Across the field, his neighbors’ fared worse. A large hay shed lay collapsed, while the other two were left in shambles, twisted metal blown hundreds of feet out into their fields. Their loaded hauler lying on its side, hay still strapped to the bed. “When I look at our dairy it looks like a lot of destruction, but when I look at my neighbors place it is impressive destruction. It’s amazing that wind can do this much damage.” said Jacob.

News crews were in the area all day looking for interviews and showcasing the damage. A helicopter hovered above showing the Ethington’s cows relaxing in twisted metal.

A week after the storm, clean up was still underway. After surveying the damage, Jacob feels blessed because it could’ve been so much worse. The employees and cows survived without injuries. The dairy never lost power and the things damaged didn’t hinder day to day operations.