Archive for Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Rain gauges overflowing during June

June 15, 2005

It's barely a drop in the bucket compared to the floods of 1951 and 1993.

But recent rains have left fields drenched and farmers wondering if the rains will ever stop.

Tom Norman, who keeps rainfall statistics for the National Weather Service, said his rain gauge showed 19.72 inches for the year.

Of that, 8.37 inches of rain fell from June 1 through Monday morning. Norman measures rainfall at his home six miles southeast of Tonganoxie.

Norman, who has lived and farmed along Stranger Creek all his life, remembers his father, the late Bill Norman, talking about the flood of '51.

"Dad said it just kept raining and kept raining," Norman said. "And then he said the rivers got full, the ponds got full and then just a great big rain came. ... The water didn't have any place else to go."

Norman said he'd been told that 1993 rains were similar to 1951 in that a wet fall and spring preceded the summer floods.

This year was different. Norman's statistics show that less than an inch of rain fell in March, and in April, only 1.2 inches.

Comparing rainfalls

Rick Abel, the county's executive director of the Farm Service Agency, said he'd heard people compare this year's rainfall to other years.

"I heard somebody liken it to the 1993 year, which turned out to be a major flood," Abel said.

What the area needs, Abel said, is a couple of weeks of dry weather "to get things rolling again."

"We don't want to shut it off completely," Abel said. "We just want a reprieve."

A reprieve may be what the area is going to get.

Chuck Magaha, the county's director of emergency preparedness, said that on Sunday the central part of the county received from 2 1/2 to 3 inches of rain, and the northern part of the county received an inch.

"We're in pretty good shape now," Magaha said Tuesday morning when clouds had been replaced by clear blue skies. "Now that the rain's gone, everything will recede."

Soaking wet

By Monday, for at least part of the area's corn crop, it already was too late.

"We're flooded," said Bill McGraw, who farms north of Tonganoxie. "If it got over the corn it killed it."

The corn plants will die if they're submerged for a day or so, McGraw said.

Though there's not much wheat planted in the county, the wheat that is growing looks pretty good, McGraw said.

But that doesn't mean area farmer's will reap the benefits of a bumper wheat crop.

"If you've got it (wheat) in the bottoms, it would be too muddy to cut," McGraw said. "It's not going to be a good year, that's for sure."

It's not just the rains that have damaged the crops.

"We started out with a freeze and then it got dry and then it rained and then it got dry," McGraw said. "And now it's saturated again."

At Holton Dairy, four miles southeast of Tonganoxie, Kevin Holton said Monday that the rains had him worried.

The brothers, Kevin, Terrence and Kerry, run a cropping operation, primarily of alfalfa, hay and corn, along with their dairy business.

"The alfalfa has been cut once and it's ready to cut again. It should have been cut 10 days ago," Kevin Holton said. "And the brome hay is also ready to cut -- it could have been cut around June 1."

But even if the alfalfa and hay were dry enough to cut, it's likely the heavy machinery would get stuck in the soft earth, Holton said.

Holton recalled the 1993 flooding of the Kansas River and of Stranger Creek.

"We had probably 150 acres of crop under water," Holton said, explaining that though they replanted rain-damaged crops, the yield turned out to be about half that of average.

It's different with the dairy itself where rains don't have that impact, Holton said, because cattle can be kept on concrete and fed under a shelter. But high heat and humidity, in between the rains, stresses the dairy cows, he added.

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