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Storms bring rain, havoc to Mid-South

The Hatchie, Loosahatchie, Forked Deer, Obion and Wolf Rivers and numerous smaller streams in West Tennessee are running at capacity and then some after storms dumped massive amounts of rain the week of May 4-May 11.

Farmers in the north Mississippi Delta and southeast Arkansas also were reporting flooded fields due to storm fronts that passed through. The fronts spawned tornadoes that left a dozen deaths and millions of dollars in property damage in Dyer and Madison Counties in Tennessee and in small communities in Arkansas and Missouri.

One of the ironies of the weather in our region is that while farmers in those areas are waiting for soils to dry, farmers a few miles to the south are waiting for rain to help get their crops up and growing.

Some Louisiana growers have gone two months without rainfall and others have received 1 to 2 inches while their neighbors to the north were being hit with 7 to 8 inches of rain at a sitting. The area below U.S. Highway 82 in Mississippi also has remained dry.

Judging from the photos and TV footage of the damage, residents of Dyersburg and Jackson, Tenn. will be a while digging out from the tornadoes and putting their lives back together.

A rather silly debate has begun about why some parts of west Tennessee have become more prone to tornadoes in recent years. (This was the second time for the Jackson area to be hit by a devastating tornado in four years.)

Some clergymen have implied that residents must have committed some pretty bad sins to bring down so much destruction on them. This was despite the fact that a 100-year-old church received some of the heaviest damage, and meteorologists say they don’t know why one locale is hit more often than another.

The same debate could be raised about why one area receives too much rain, another too little and farmers in between just the right amount to get their cotton and rice crops off to a good start.

In the late 1990s, I can remember the “weathermen” on the Memphis, Tenn., TV stations, complaining about how much rain Memphians were receiving when farmers in Coahoma County, Miss., 70 miles to the south, were watching their crops burn up for lack of moisture.

Now that I have re-located to Memphis, I was intrigued at how Clarksdale in Coahoma County and my part of northeast Memphis received similar amounts of rainfall during the bad weather week while Tunica County, between the two, received very little.

On a personal note, I want to thank farm organizations and other friends in agriculture for your many cards and letters following the death of my mother. My mother grew up on a small farm in Bollinger County, Mo., and spent most of her life around farming people. She would have been especially touched by those expressions of sympathy.

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