Rainy Weather

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 16, 2009

Rain, rain go away or we can’t work and won’t get paid

By Billy Davis

For a commercial landscaper, October represents a transitional month. Grass cutting is slowing down and by month’s end leaf raking is picking up.

“We typically work on leaves from November through Christmas Eve,” explained Morris Lawn Service co-owner Jason Morris.

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The leaf raking will eventually begin, of course, once the skies clear.

The sun will eventually shine, and the ground will dry and stop squishing beneath your feet.

The weather forecast in coming days is promising: clear skies beginning Sunday through mid-week, according to Web site Weather.com.

More rain is predicted to move in by Thursday, October 22.  

But for now the grass cutting and landscape work has surrendered to the rain, first through most of September and now through mid-October.

Morris said his employees have watched the rain come down day after day, dashing any chance of laying sod at a new home or operating a lawn mower.   

“It hurts me because my helpers are not getting their hours because I can’t give them any work to do,” he said.

In September, the Mid-South recorded rain every day since September 13, breaking records throughout the region, according to the National Weather Service.

At Enid Lake, the field office there recorded 11.11 inches for September.

Then came October. Enid Lake had recorded 7.37 inches by October 15, for a 10-month total of 58.28 inches. That amount outpaced 2008 rainfall totals by 9.33 inches.

“The gates are closed,” an Enid spokesman said of the 28,000-acre lake.

The effect of nonstop rainfall is not lost on area farmers, since many of them are waiting for the rain to stop so they can “mud the crop” from the wet fields.

The corn harvest is faring best, with about three-quarters of that crop harvested, said Wade, Inc. manager Jim Wilson of Batesville.

Soybeans are hardest hit, he said.

Wilson said his crop report came first hand from large-scale farmers in Panola, Quitman Tallahatchie and Lafayette counties.

After hearing the farmers’ reports, he e-mailed the crop outlook for corn, cotton, soybeans and rice to others within the chain of John Deere dealerships.

Local cotton farmers told Wilson they predict a bumper crop – 1,000 to 1,200 pounds per acre. But they also expect to lose from 200 pounds to 300 pounds per acre due to the rains.

One hundred percent of the cotton crop is still in the fields, Wilson was told.

About 60 percent of rice – “good crop and strong yields–” has been harvested, since rice farmers are accustomed to working in water and mud, Wilson reported.

“I saved the worst for last,” he wrote of soybeans.

After farmers planted 40 percent “early beans” and 60 percent “late beans,” only 10 percent of the early soybeans have been harvested. Rains damaged about half of the 10 percent harvested.

“I have heard the damages have run from 20 percent to 80 percent at the elevator,” Wilson reported, though late plantings are expected to fare better.  

Judd Gentry, Panola County Extension agent, has also heard of damaged soybeans being turned away.

“I’ve heard 30-percent damage is not uncommon at all,” he said.

Mississippi is readying a request to declare an agricultural disaster in hard-hit counties, said Justin Ferguson, a regional manager for Miss. Farm Bureau.

That request would go to the United States Department of Agriculture to help farmers severely impacted by crop losses due to the rains.

“The cotton crop could be a 50-percent loss statewide,” Ferguson said.

“Some farmers I talk to are ‘gloom and doom,’ but others are positive,” Wilson said of his e-mailed report. “I wanted to be realistic but not ‘gloom and doom.’”

“It’s not good at all,” agreed Gentry, when told of Wilson’s crop report.

“We won’t know for sure until everything’s harvested, but it looks pretty dim right now,” he added.