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Coping with high waters

Coping with high waters
Coping with high waters | flooding in Weakley County; Weakley County Municipal Electric System

Workers from the Weakley County Municipal Electric System set in a new pole to replace a fallen one on Shadtown Road.
Field capacity.
Two of the most dreaded words a farmer can hear.
“The ground is saturated with water,” Weakley County Agricultural Extension Agent Jeff Lannon reports. “It has reached field capacity and the rest of it is running off into ditches, streams and rivers.”
This means levy and road damage that will be very costly to repair. As waters recede, soil erosion adds to the difficulties.
It also creates challenges for farmers who have already planted for the season or are deciding what to plant.
Spring flooding is not anything new. The past two springs brought lots of rain. Larry Armstrong, the TWRA wildlife manager for this area says that so far the Obion River system is “not close to where it was last year,” but nonetheless he expects all of the wildlife refuges that he manages in the Obion River water system to be under water in coming days.
That’s not a disaster for the water-loving ducks and geese who inhabit the refuges, but it does do damage to levees and gravel roads. “The water doesn’t have to go over the river; it backs into creeks and overflows internal levees. If it’s slow enough, there is less damage.”
In any kind of a major flooding situation in the state, TWRA enforcement and wildlife officers are ready to help in case the flooding gets severe and people in remote areas need to be evacuated or be brought supplies. They have the boats. “We helped out in Katrina and Nashville,” says Armstrong.
Flooding can “scour the farm land and leave large deposits of sand,” explains Lannon.The trees, of course, can go down around the field edges and fences have been knocked down for livestock to escape,
He  maintains that the rain has already shifted corn planting off schedule. Usually by this time, 80-85% of the corn crop has been planted.
Only 15% have been planted so far, by his estimates.
Local farmer, Russ Vincent was going to try and plant corn this season but is thinking that his river bottom land will be too saturated for corn by  mid-May.
However he says it is sometimes surprising how fast high winds can dry out river bottoms.
He will probably be planting soybeans instead, as he did last year.
Replanting of corn, if it takes place, says Lannon is no longer profitable after May 15-20.
“High water is the problem as you move west to the Mississippi River but as far east as we are, it’s not high water it’s just saturated ground,” says Vincent.
He plants about 1300 acres in Weakley County, one third of which is river bottom land.
Trees continue to be a problem as storms plague the county with high winds. But the saturated ground also sends old shade trees tumbling down. Denny Davidson of the Forestry Division in Weakley County says that though some property owners want to top trees to minimize risk, that’s the last thing they should do.”
“Topping is bad,” he says. “All it does is open up the trees for disease and we do not encourage it. When the tree limbs grow out, they’ll be even more brittle.”
Bradford Pears are particularly vulnerable in storm situations, he says. When they get to be 10-15 years old, their limb structure is brittle.”
“Young trees are limber and can bear wind much better.”
To find more guidance on tree care or to report a problem, call the forestry office from 8am to 4:30p.m. Monday through Friday at 364-2541.
The community also continues to brace for water damage to buildings every time another storm system passes through the area. Sharon School (K-8), for instance, suffered damage in the Monday night storm this week. Part of the gymnasium roof blew off and water came seeping into the floor of a junior high math room leaving large puddles around the desks and computers.
The school was closed Monday and part of Tuesday while repairs were made and rains continued to bring the area closer to viscious flooding.
Over in Gleason the Monday night storms wreaked havoc on the baseball fields at Mike Snider Park used by the high school. The winds tossed a set of bleachers up onto the backstop on one field and near home plate on another.
A number of fences lining the fields were knocked down.
Because the worst has yet to hit as rivers in the region rise, Sen. Roy Herron’s office says the senator has been working with Gov. Bill Haslam and his commissioners on a state level as well as Sen. Bob Corker on a national level to “make sure that all state and federal resources are deployed immediately to prevent flooding wherever possible and to help all flood victims.”
wcp 4/28/11

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