All Posts February 7, 2019

Arkansas Democrat Gazette,
by Stephen Steed, February 7, 2019,

Rains in January and February, coupled with heavier rainfall than normal last fall, likely will mean a gloomy spring for farmers, John Lewis, senior forecaster for the National Weather Service, said Wednesday.

“Warm and wet continues,” Lewis told members of the Arkansas Agriculture Board, an advisory panel to the Arkansas Agriculture Department and its various divisions, including the state Plant Board, state Livestock and Poultry Commission, and state Forestry Commission.

Lewis said 2018 was the state’s eighth-wettest year on record, with 64.31 inches of rainfall statewide, or 14.7 inches above average. “We’ve had six-straight months of above-average rainfall, through January,” he said.

Lake and river levels remain high but pose no problems now, he said.

“But if high levels remain nearly into spring, we’ll have problems,” he said. “There’s really no place for the water to go right now.”

The El Nino warm-weather pattern also is likely to continue in Arkansas through the year.

The higher-than-usual temperatures and expected rain “are a perfect setup for flooding” and likely would lead to early blooming of many plants and trees, Lewis said.

“A late freeze is not out of the question,” Lewis said, adding that snow in March wouldn’t be a surprise. Lewis also projected a summer in which “neither drought nor extreme heat is likely.”

“But I’m most fearful about flooding,” he said. “The second would be that late freeze.”

All of those conditions would affect farmers’ planting season, he said.

Floods hit Arkansas farmers in the spring of 2016 and 2017, forcing many farmers to replant fields lost to high waters and leading to crop losses of more than $200 million.