Tuesday rain puts damper on draught

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 29, 2002

Features Editor

Those who don’t think farming’s a gamble have never rolled dice in the dust.

That’s what farmers have been doing lately.

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The ink on the new Farm Bill is probably damper than the ground where farmers are trying to plant and grow their crops.

Although a welcomed rain fell early Tuesday night and brought some relief to the county, unless much more rain is forthcoming,

Pike County farmers will continue to feel the heat.

Pike County weather watcher Frank Mathews at Banks said his rain gauge was showing .25 inches Tuesday night with a slow drizzle still coming down.

"With the shape we’re in, any little bit of rain will help," he said. "What’s good about this rain is that it came down kind of slow and didn’t run off. We might get some more rain Wednesday and that will be good, but we’re not near wet yet."

County Agent David Carpenter said the drought and the heat are having a tremendous impact on all aspects of agriculture and home lawns and gardens as well.

"It’s hurting in every way that heat and drought can," he said. "Nothing is growing from lawns to home gardens to row crops. It’s just too dry. We need rain desperately. We needed it a long time ago."

Peanuts are coming up in spots in most fields and some farmers are planning to replant.

"Peanuts just don’t have enough moisture and that could mean a bad crop," Carpenter said. "Cotton is awful, too."

Cattlemen are also feeling the effects of the drought and some have already had to resort to last winter’s leftover hay because there’s no grass for cows to graze.

"When you’re having to feed cows in the middle of May, that’s not good," Carpenter said. "The poultry farmers also have to be concerned because of the heat. High temperatures over an extended time can be bad on chickens."

Carpenter said weather conditions are bringing back memories of 2000 when drought and heat were so bad that everything dried up –

from hay fields to rivers.

"We’ve needed rain for several weeks, but it’s crucial right now," he said.

Mathews had only three words to say about the weather conditions in Pike County this year – "dry, dry and drier."

"It ain’t much," he said of the rainfall for the year 2002. "What rain we’ve had, for the most part, is in small tenths and that’s not enough to help anybody anywhere.

Right now, Rich Thomas (WSFA-TV meteorologist) said we’re down about a foot below normal. It’s at least that, probably more."

Mathews said he recorded four rain days in January for a total of slightly more than an inch and a half.

"We had two rain days in February, if you can call them that," he said. "Those two days produced just over a half an inch."

March was the big rainmaker with four days totaling 4.6 inches.

"Why, we had a flood in March," Mathews said with a laugh. "On one day alone we got 2.5 inches. Compared to every other rain, that was a flood."

The "flood" came on March 21 and brought hopes of April showers. But, only 1.7 inches of rain fell during the month, hardly enough to produce May flowers.

Another 2 inches of rain have fallen in May, including Tuesday’s showers.

"April and May are supposed to be the wettest of the year and we’ve only had a little over an inch in each one. It’s going to

take a lot of slow, steady, soaking rain to do much good," Mathews said, adding that a gully-washer would run off like water off a duck’s back because the ground is so dry and hard. If the ground gets softened up and we get good soaking rains, things should start to look a lot better for us."