May 28, 2019 was a day Rob Leach and his family will never forget.
"I grabbed our phones, our portable charger, some flashlights," the Linwood, Kan. farmer said. "We thought worst case we're going to have these things, and I'm so glad we did, because we needed every one of them."
He needed those items after an EF-4 tornado ripped through Kansas. The twister was a master, at a mile wide, carrying 170 mph winds.
"I mean, it was noisy, but it was just the most incredible wind you ever can imagine," said Leach. "Then, there was some really loud pounding, which we thought were nails, but it turns out there was my chimney coming apart, you know, hitting the roof."
At one point, the winds and rain had stopped, and so Leach and his wife went upstairs. What they didn't realize was the "calm" was the eye of the storm. Once the winds started back, they rushed downstairs to get back to safety.
"When we came upstairs after it was over, we couldn't see anything, because it was raining the hardest I've ever seen it."
When he finally waded through the limbs and debris covering his house and windows, the damage to Lin-Crest Farm was unreal.
"We have a lot of outbuildings, we have a shop, a freestall barn, calf barn, holding pins, grain bins, garages, silos; it's all gone," he said.
As a dairy farmer, Leach's worst fear quickly became a reality.
"When we came up the hill, we expected the worst, and we immediately found that we had cattle meeting us in the yard, cattle walking all over the place, dead cows" said Leach. "But there was nothing we could do. I couldn't even get to one to euthanize her."
Some cows were carried more than a half a mile away.
"The one that was the farthest away, we didn't find for 24 hours and she was the most valuable cow on the farm," explained Leach. "She was down in a ditch and couldn't get up. So, you know, we tried our best when we finally found her. We lifted her, we we spent a lot of time trying to decide if she was able to be saved."
As the devastation continued to mount, what happened since the tornado ravaged the farm is something Leach says is remarkable.
"I made one phone call," he said. "I haven't even asked for help. I only made one phone call. And I've probably had a couple hundred people here and maybe more. The first guy here was some stranger who walked probably a mile to get here. He was he was just some guy that came over the hill, because all the roads were blocked for within a mile in every direction. And he walked in from the pasture and and wanted to help. He got on the skid loader and was trying to help, because he knew that the road was blocked. They probably spent three hours trying to clear their driveway. And then the county roads were also blocked. So access was impossible."
As cleanup continues to take place, and reality sets in, Leach said he's reminded what matters most.
"Nobody got hurt. My family is good, nobody got hurt," said Leach. "My sister's house, which is across the pasture, she was in her basement, and she lost everything. When she came upstairs her house was gone. And probably within 15 minutes she was over here, because nobody was hurt over there, she was over here helping with the cattle, and she never went home that night. She never went home."
Caring for their cows, even with a natural disaster strikes.
"I mean, it seems silly, but our cows are our family," said Leach. "All we cared about next was getting the cow somewhere safe. That one phone call s how he set the whole thing up."
Strangers and friends helping save the cows they could, no matter the lengths they had to go.
"That night we walked 20 of the worst ones that were saveable out the driveway, so people that had never seen cows in their life, we halted them and they walked them all the way to the road, which must be a half a mile, in the dark and in the rain."
Leach is thankful his daughters weren't home that night. The girls were in Wisconsin, including Taylor Leach, who's part of the Farm Journal family.
"Trash is everywhere, nails everywhere, wires everywhere," she said scouring the aftermath. "If we ever have cattle here again, I don't know how we're going to be able to clean up all of the wire and nails out in the pasture. Our alfalfa needs cut and there are shingles in it."
The farm, cows and the backdrop of her childhood ripped up in minutes.
Time stood still that night, with the clock in the milking parlor stuck on the time the tornado struck, reminding the Leach family they are stronger than the storm.
"Your friends and your family are all that matters," said Rob Leach. "None of this is worth anything; this is just stuff. That's what I had to tell my kids who were out of town, and thank God they weren't here, I just thank God nobody got hurt. And none of this stuff matters at all."