Clay County Extension agent Ron Baker usually works at the county’s Corning office. Thursday, he was working in the northeast Arkansas county’s other seat – Piggott – because the swollen Black River had rendered Corning an island, with only a tenuous road connection.
“I can’t get to Corning without taking a two-and-a-half or three-hour drive through Poplar Bluff, Missouri,” Baker said Thursday. “Everyone who lives in the Corning area says they’ve never seen it this high before.”
The water may go higher all over Arkansas. Another round of storms is expected over the weekend, the National Weather Service said.
Baker and other Extension agents with the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture who have surveyed the rain-soaked landscape say any assessment of potential crop losses will have to wait until the water recedes.
Baker and others said the sooner the water comes off the field, the better the chances for crop survival. “We know corn is going to be hurt the worst, especially where the water is very deep. After four or five days, corn that was submerged gets pretty iffy, plus it tends to get different fungal diseases.
“If it does survive, it could be a pretty poor crop.”
Rice is more resilient underwater. “It’s been known to withstand flood conditions for two to three weeks. But it will be stretched and weakened and will take time to recover. It’ll produce a crop, but if the damage is severe, probably not a very good crop.”
Farther south, Lincoln County has both Bayou Bartholomew and the Arkansas River to worry about.
“In places, you need a boat,” said Chad Norton, Lincoln County Extension staff chair. “Everything is full, the bayou’s full and the river is backing up. It may be 10 days before we get water off some of these places.”
The water was so high, “we had water running in downtown Star City about 8 inches deep.”
As for the potential of new storms over the weekend, Norton said, “we need it to come through quick and not drop an inch of rain.”
John Freeman of Dumas, who farms in Lincoln County, concurred with Norton about the forecast: “I hope we skip a few” rain showers.
“We didn’t get hit as hard as some of our neighbors,” Freeman said Thursday. “We had some acres under water, but much of it wasn’t planted. We planted the high ground first.”
Northern Desha County, in the state’s southeastern corner, “got a pretty substantial rainfall on top of what came the night before,” said Wes Kirkpatrick, county Extension staff chair. “It’s too early to tell about damage. How long the water stands on the crops will determine what type of negative impact it has.”
But rain wasn’t the only weather issue in the county.
“Around Grady and Gould, they had tennis ball-sized hail,” said Kirkpatrick. “In the Watson community, there was substantial wind damage.”
Kirkpatrick also felt the weather’s wrath. “We had damage to a horse barn that destroyed two overhead doors and threw them across the pasture. It was the same winds that hit the Watson area.”
Robert Goodson, a county Extension agent who works both Lee and Phillips counties, said parts of Lee County near the L’Anguille River had high water, but it was draining fairly quickly. Phillips County was another story. Planting got started early this year, but then 10 to 12 inches of rain fell in a short time.
“South of Highway 49, there are a whole bunch of flooded fields that will need major replants of corn and soybean – possibly 25,000 acres” said Goodson.
“One other concern is the Mississippi River, which (at 44 feet) is already at flood stage at Helena-West Helena. It could hit 52.5, which is another seven feet of water coming down the river. That’s just lot of water when the drains are full.”
For growers, “it’s going to be day-to-day,” said Goodson. On the plus side, seed is in good supply for growers forced to replant.
In north-central Arkansas, Conway County saw some 10 inches of rainfall in four days.
“Several hundred acres of wheat and corn are underwater,” said Kevin VanPelt, Conway County Extension agent. “The wheat will be a total loss, but some producers are hopeful that the water will get off the fields within a couple of days so that the corn will recover.”
Livestock that producers didn’t get moved from the bottomlands are taking refuge on the levees around the Arkansas River.
“Several of our largest cattle producers are on the river in Conway County and with the flooding, a lot of stocker calves have had to be moved off winter wheat pasture that they were hoping to graze for another month,” VanPelt said.
The rainfall has eliminated drought classifications for slightly more than 50 percent of the state, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor map released Thursday.
For more information about disaster recovery, visit http://www.uaex.edu/news/pressroom/storm_recovery/, or contact your county Extension office.