March rains reached near record levels; affecting area farmers

Published 9:45 am Thursday, April 14, 2016

Mother Nature has not been kind to Warren County in the first four months of 2016.

In January, the Mississippi River rose to more than 50 feet, threatening sections of Vicksburg before finally receding in March.

In March, the skies opened, releasing a deluge that dropped near record rainfall on the area and across Mississippi.

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“Some areas of the state have received 80 percent to 210 percent of their annual rainfall so far, so March was a wet month,” said state climatologist Mike Brown. “I believe when you look at the state average (for March) over the past 10 years, this period would rank Number 2.”

There was one bit of good news. The drought situation that threatened most of Mississippi has been eradicated, he said.

According to the National Weather Service gauge at Vicksburg-Tallulah Region Airport, the area’s only NWS-certified gauge, 12.19 inches of rain fell locally during March — the third most for this area during March, said NWS meteorologist Brad Bryant. The record, he said, was 14.11 inches in March 1961.

The year-to-date total for this area is 27.6 inches, more than half the annual estimate of 55 inches.

“This part of spring usually gets higher rainfall totals than the rest of the year, unless we have a wet winter,” Bryant said.

He said the area should start seeing a reduction in rainy days as El Nino, a climate system that brings wetter weather to the south, begins to weaken. El Nino, he said, was one of the factors driving the wet weather.

Locally, the heavy March rains accompanied by high winds were responsible for knocking down trees, causing mudslides that threatened or blocked city streets and county roads, and rendered many streets and roads impassible for short periods of time.

And caused county farmers problems, forcing the U.S. Department of Agriculture to issue a disaster declaration for the county.

“Heavy rains this time of year could affect crops by delaying planting,” said Anna McCain county agent for Warren County with the Mississippi State extension service. “If we look at yield according to planting date, it tends to appear as a bell curve. By planting too early, we run the risk of frost and cold damage and by planting too late we increase insect pressure on our crops.

“Our recent weather has had a significant impact on warren county crops, forest lands and landscape plants. Pasturelands suffered greatly, forcing cattle farmers to feed early in the year. This means they will have extra expenses throughout the winter providing feed and hay for their cattle.” She said row crop farmers have also suffered from the recent heavy rains.

“It’s put everything behind, all this rain we’re having,” said farmer Doug Jeter.

“People who are planting corn have already had to re-plant. I know some who planted, and we had that big raid about a month ago, and they had to re-plant all that, and now, that last big rain we had (Monday) — I had 8 inches at Redwood — it looks like to me a lot of corn’s not going to get planted if it keeps raining.

“Some (farmers) never got through (planting) the first time,” he said. “It’s a wet spring again; we need to dry out. Another big rain — and there’s a chance of rain today and tomorrow and next week — so it’s not looking real favorable right now for getting things into the field early like you should.”

Clay Adcock, who farms in the Eagle Lake area, said the wet weather has forced him to change some of his crop plans.

“The time to be finishing up planting corn is about to end, so we’ll have to move on to cotton or soybeans, to an additional crop; an alternative crop,” he said. “The ground that was going into corn will have to be substituted for something else. Corn (planting) is out of time on the calendar.”

Adcock said he has already had to re-plant corn twice, “And I don’t know with this rain if I’ll plant some more. It’s been tough right now.”

Soybean season, he said, is just starting, adding most farmers have not started planting. Once the ground dries, he said, most people will be planting soybeans.

Cotton planting is later in the season.

“In 2015 we saw heavy rains as well as extreme drought,” McCain said. For some farmers, this meant that they were not able to plant their crops. In cases where they could plant, they lost crops due to flooding. For others that were able to plant, the extreme drought later in the year led to decreased yields for non-irrigated crops.

McCain said weather problems 2015 resulted in the U.S. Department of Agriculture issuing disaster designations for Warren County three different times in 2015, making farmers eligible for disaster loans that can help them recover and prepare for the next growing season.

“Now, as we are in the midst of the 2016 planting season, the USDA has issued two disaster designations for the heavy rainfall and flooding seen over the last two months.

She said Warren County farmers interested in Farm Service Agency disaster loans should contact the Yazoo County FSA office.


About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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