Farmer tries luck with anti-hail cannon

By Don McAlavy: Local columnist

About 13 years ago I was suddenly awakened early one morning by a loud boom, and then another boom, and I thought we were being bombed. At this time I was living on the Pleasant Hill Highway northeast of Clovis and the booms came from the southeast. It sounded like a giant walking across the country.

Sometime later I discovered the booms came from Rolland Lusk’s farm just east of Clovis. He had an anti-hail cannon, the first, he said, to be installed in the United States. A hail cannon? Who was he shooting at? Well it seems Lusk had purchased, sight unseen, a device (anti-hail cannon) for $130,000, after talking to vineyard and orchard owners in Mexico and Canada over a two-year period.

Lusk said the people he talked to reported they hadn’t suffered hail damage since purchasing their anti-hail cannon.

Lusk said his onion acreage near Clovis gets a little hail every year, but this year three different hail storms wiped out 250 acres of onions. He lost $250,000 in growing costs, plus all the income he would have made from the sale of the onions.

So the next time storms roll in with claps of thunder, lightning and threats of hail, said Lusk, the skies about my home will be filled with a different noise: heart-pounding booms followed by a whistle that reverberates upward for five or six seconds.

The device consists of a cannon housed in a Quonset hut combustion chamber that shoots repeated low-frequency shock waves into hail-producing clouds, said Robert McVicker, vice president of Pro-Shield, Inc., marketer of the product.

McVicker said the explosion produces a two-ton thrust, expelling sonic waves into the clouds up to 60,000 feet about the ground. This stirs up the molecules, preventing them from slowing down to form a solid. Hail stones that have already formed are softened and fall as slush.

“Most of the farmers around me think I’m crazy,” Lusk said. “But I sure think it’ll work.”

The manufacturers said the anti-hail cannon will protect a 220-acre area or a round area that is 1 kilometer in diameter. It is radio-controlled and should be turned on a half-hour before the storm hits, emitting sound waves every six seconds.

The people who make the anti-hail cannon said they hope the installation of a cannon in the United States will generate more interest, as it has been used for 18 years in France.

So far I have a 100 percent money-back guarantee if the device doesn’t work when the next hail storm arrives over my onion fields, Lusk said. Let’s hope the device works!

Don McAlavy is Curry County’s historian. He can be contacted at: