MEMPHIS, Tenn. — On Monday (May 5), ominous storms generating heavy rains and reported hail and tornado activity again swept through parts of the Delta.

One of the hardest hit areas reported thus far was in Arkansas' southern Phillips County and northern Desha County.

"We had a humdinger of a storm come through in the southern area of the county yesterday," says Jerry Williams, Phillips County Extension agent. "We had 1.5 inches of rain at the office here in Helena. Lexa had about 2.5 inches. There was a whole lot more rain dumped on the southern end of the county around Elaine, though. I haven't had a chance to drive down there yet but I'm heading down there shortly."

Williams won't like what he'll see says Randy Scaife, Helena Chemical salesman. "With Monday's storm, we had 2.5 inches of rain in Elaine. But around the Desha County line over 5 inches fell. The south part of the county looks like a lake — it's all under water. Right about Jackson Point south is where the heavy rain fell," says Scaife.

Steve Kelly, Desha County Extension agent, says reports are that the area around Watson got some 6.5 inches of rain.

"I drove through some major, heavy rain yesterday," says Kelly, whose office is in Dumas. "I didn't see any hail or a tornado, even though there were reports of both. We'll find out shortly how bad this set us back."

Scaife says producers in the areas were probably half though planting cotton and 80 percent done planting soybeans.

"There's going to be a bunch of replanting — there's already seed being purchased for that purpose," he says.

Pat O'Brien, Helena Chemicals warehouse manager, says "a lot" of fields around Elaine are under water and ditches are backed up.

"Farmers are already talking about replanting," says O'Brien. "It's too soon to get a complete picture of how much replanting will be done, though. A lot depends on how quickly this floodwater runs off. If it runs off fast, it may not hurt so much — replanting might only be necessary along field edges. But rain is supposed to hit again tonight and also later this week. If that forecast bears out, the problems just multiply."

Mississippi

Most of the storms and heavy rains that have come through Mississippi were north of Highway 82, says Will McCarty, Mississippi Extension cotton specialist.

"As a matter of fact, some areas south of 82 could use a shower or two. Looking at the forecast for the rest of the week, they may get it before this weather system moves on out."

There's not as much cotton planted in the north end of the state, says McCarty.

"We've had some hail damage but I haven't got a handle on how much replanting that will mean. What replanting I am familiar with is a response to extreme, heavy-packing rain that occurred within 24 hours after cotton was planted."

In northeast Mississippi, McCarty says, fields have been deluged the last couple of days.

"That's going to further delay their planting efforts. That area has been extremely wet this year already and planting has hardly begun there.

"South of 82, planting is well ahead of average and cotton is emerging fairly rapidly. The crop looks good right now. There were some flooding conditions in the Big Black River area that resulted in some replanting earlier this year. But that's okay now and really — especially in Sharkey County and Yazoo County a little rain would be welcome. To give you an indication, I've seen some corn being irrigated around there."

Regarding the corn crop, there was some hail damage at various sites across the state.

"It's early so I'm unsure of what the damage level is," says Erick Larson, Mississippi Extension corn specialist. "But most of the corn we have up is probably less than a foot tall so unless it experienced complete defoliation and stem damage, the plants should be able to recover fairly well. The earlier the damage happens in the early growth stages, the higher the likelihood that full recovery will occur."

Larson doesn't think the heavy rains have damaged the state's corn in a major way.

"I was much more fearful of potential hail damage — we got some in Starkville and around Columbus. With the rain, there may be some flooding in low fields and nitrogen applications may be delayed, but I haven't heard of any utter devastation yet. It may be out there, but I haven't seen it or gotten a report yet."

dbennett@primediabusiness.com