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News - Floods Devastate Kentucky

  • May 18, 2010

Since the beginning of May, Kentucky has endured a series of damaging storms producing everything from tornadoes and mudslides, to torrential downpours and flooding. As the heavy rains continued to soak the southeastern parts of the United States, flooding became the main concern in several areas—especially in places like Casey County where the water levels quickly reached unprecedented heights. The residents and businesses of Liberty, Kentucky, including the Casey County Farm Bureau office, were among those most dramatically affected by the recent flooding. Not only did waters cresting past 100-year-old flood plain markers fill the Casey County Farm Bureau office and damage everything on the first floor of its building, many of its neighboring businesses found their storefronts submerged and inoperable as well. Approximately 18-20 homes were damaged or destroyed by the heavy rains and resulting floods, making recovery from the storms in this area of the state difficult to manage.

Fortunately for the Casey County Farm Bureau office, customers were redirected to the state office while its staff established a temporary location to keep things operating normally. Not everyone has been able to steady themselves as quickly.

According to Cropcast Agricultural Services Meteorologist, Don Keeney, Kentucky received 8-12 inches of rain during the first week of May. For many Kentuckians, and especially local farmers, these storms have had devastating effects on their livelihood. Livestock were lost, newly planted crops ruined or washed away, and buildings – both personal and vocational – were damaged. With the floods producing such a widespread impact to crops and livestock alike, many farmers are now facing a potential loss of income and intense financial stress.

As the ideal time to plant many crops typically ends in mid-May, any continuation of rain could make it impossible for farmers to capitalize on this normally favorable opportunity. Regardless of further rainfall accumulations, the greater concern may be in the need to recover crops lost to the damaging floodwaters and submerged fields.

Jim Herbek, an extension grain crops specialist at the University of Kentucky, reported that about 100,000 to 150,000 acres of corn, or roughly 8% to 12% of the state’s crop, needed to be replanted as a result of the flooding. He also indicated that about 20,000 to 40,000 acres of the 450,000 acres expected to be planted with wheat in Kentucky were likely affected by the deluge, but that flooding in wheat areas was generally minor and plants weren’t covered for too long. Soybeans avoided serious damage in the region because planting was still in its early stages. Kentucky’s soybean crop was only 11% planted at the time Herbek’s report was made.

In an effort to offer relief, Governor Steve Beshear requested U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to provide disaster assistance to Kentucky farmers. Due in part to the persistently rising river levels, this request was granted and official United States Disaster Assistance (USDA) was passed across the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

“The severe storms and flooding have impacted all facets of Kentucky’s agricultural industry and assistance from the USDA is critical and necessary to offset resulting income losses,” said Governor Beshear.

The state’s help was delivered by President Barak Obama when he issued a major disaster declaration for Kentucky on May 11, promising federal funds for the statewide recovery from the recent storms. The declaration offered assistance to individuals, designated counties, state and local government, and select non-profit organizations with emergency needs and damaged facilities.

As the recovery process continues and farmers await the drier conditions needed to aid the replanting process, only time will tell the true downstream impacts of the flooding that has created headaches for farmers who had been enjoying mostly favorable spring weather.


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