The forecast currently calls for Lili to hit the “upper Texas coast or southwest Louisiana” on Thursday. There’s plenty of time for the storm to change its track, but all models are saying essentially the same thing. That the models all agree, says Grymes, is a very bad sign.

“It’s foreboding and not good news. There are a couple of good reasons the models – around a dozen – are saying the same thing. First, the driving currents look as though they will lock in mid-week. Also, Isidore didn’t intensify because it was weakened while over the Yucatan and pulling dry air in from the west side. That won’t happen with Lili. Instead, Lili is going to race across western Cuba fairly quickly, and then it will be over open, very warm water.”

What will happen once it hits land?

“There’s a good chance it will start to recurve after landfall. In this case – unlike Isidore in which most of Louisiana and Arkansas was on the left hand, or dry side – this storm looks like it will bring the wet, windy side right into south Louisiana and, depending on its curvature as it moves north, could move into Arkansas with major rainfall.”

All of this is dependent on the storm track remaining the same and nothing significant changing over the next three days.

“All indications are, though, that this will be a soaker,” says Grymes.

The bulk of the Mississippi Delta has been hit twice with big rains recently. Although a lot of Mississippi hill areas missed it, the Delta area received with between 2 and 7 inches in a storm a few days before Isidore.

“Then Isidore swept through and whammed us again. It got worse as it went north. As a whole, with the exception of some flash flooding, it wasn’t incredibly destructive to land, buildings, or structures. It did have an impact on the crops, though. What’s discouraging is, before these storms, we had folks cutting and picking crops that were as good as they’ve ever had,” says Alan Blaine, Mississippi Extension soybean specialist.

“I hope Lili never shows up. We don’t need it. I appreciate the weathermen, but I hope they’re as wrong as can be on predicting this one. Let them send that rain to someone else because we don’t want it here.”

Blaine says that before Isidore Mississippi rice was excellent, soybeans were potentially the best ever, and cotton was looking great.

“But then the rain hit and we’re still waiting to see the full effect. Once a crop reaches physiological maturity and it just stays in the field, it will deteriorate. This kind of weather doesn’t help us get into the field.”

Today, Blaine says, “It’s very cloudy (in Starkville), and we had heavy fog this morning. I think farmers will get to run a little bit before Lili hits. We should be able to get into the fields at least a little on Tuesday or Wednesday.

“We don’t need any more rain. The only thing that surprised me was in the hills of Mississippi. We were so dry there that the hills handled the 7 to 10 inches dumped by Isidore much better than anyone suspected they would.”

Central Louisiana escaped Isidore’s wrath, but farmers there are scrambling to avoid Lili, says Randy Machovec, consultant with Pest Management Enterprises, in Cheneyville.

“Around Alexandria, we got some rain, but nothing major. We were picking cotton this past Saturday, so things are okay. But with Lili coming in, if it takes more of a western path, we’re set up for trouble.”

With harvesting, farmers in the Alexandria area have been lucky because winds have been blowing at night and some growers have picked cotton well into the night. Everyone is trying to beat the storms, says Machovec.

“We’re seeing some regular 2-bale yields. I’m hoping to see some 2.5-bale cotton. But at this point, if we can just get the cotton out that’s a major accomplishment. Last year, we caught 11 to 14 inches of rain right at defoliation and ended up losing a bunch of cotton. We ended up averaging 600 pounds and no one wants a repeat of that,” he says.

The Louisiana soybean crop didn’t sustain a major amount of injury due to Isidore.

“What we will start seeing – because it’s wetter than normal -- is an increase in disease and some sprouting in the pods. But overall, Isidore wasn’t a problem.

“We are extremely worried about Lili, though. It appears it’s headed straight for us. We can handle some rain, but don’t want wind to lay the crop on the ground,” says David Lanclos, Louisiana Extension soybean, corn and sorghum specialist.

“It would be nice if we could get into the field and harvest before Lili hits. But that’s not possible because the crop just isn’t ready to be cut. We did have some combines running this weekend, but we’re still 2 or 3 weeks off from having the bulk of our soybeans ready,” he says.

As with soybeans, Louisiana cotton experienced little damage from Isidore. Some cotton was knocked out on the ground, “but nothing major,” says Sandy Stewart, Louisiana Extension cotton specialist.

This week, with Lili bearing down, Louisiana farmers are picking everything they can. Pickers are currently running wide open, says Stewart.

“One big difference is before Isidore hit there were a lot of northern winds blowing and some farmers were able to pick all night long. With this one, though, winds aren’t blowing as much and farmers aren’t able to get into the fields until late morning. There’s plenty of cotton out that’s been defoliated and is ready to pick. The cotton that’s being picked is in the 1.5 to 2-bale range. We’re probably between 30 and 35 percent harvested now.”

e-mail: dbennett@primediabusiness.com