U.S. Water News Online
JACKSON, Miss.-- Brown, crunchy sprigs of grass are taking
over area lawns, and firefighters can't catch a break with wild
This year's drought has quite a grip on the state and its flora --
the worst many have seen in six years.
"If we get a real gully washer, it's going to run off," said
Madison horticulturist Billy Martinson, who works at GardenWorks
The answer is a few days of steady drizzle.
"That's God taking care of us," he said.
Scattered showers here and there aren't enough to quench lawns and
fields. Areas of the state are 6 to 20 inches behind on rainfall for
September and October are typically drier months, but this time
they follow a summer drought.
Richard Mellon of Triple R Farms in Bolton said he's been more
fortunate than most farmers because he's had rain.
Even still, he expects to harvest about 92 bushels of corn, which
is 44 fewer than last year. He's still harvesting soybeans and
"You get what you can (from the fields) and hope you've got a good
banker for next year," he said.
Yearly rainfall for the Jackson area is about 6 inches below
normal, said meteorologist Latrice Maxie of the National Weather
Service. Roughly 34 inches have fallen since January.
Statewide, the yearly totals run about 8 inches short in parts of
the Delta to 20 inches on the Gulf Coast.
"We do need some steady rain for extended period in order to make
up a deficit," Maxie said.
Steady dry land may cause headaches for more home gardeners and
farmers in the coming months.
For farmers, the desire for rain is suspended as harvest begins,
said Steve Martin, an agriculture economist at Mississippi State
"At this point we don't need any rain for row crops," Martin said.
Precipitation was needed in the spring and summer when crops were
growing, he said.
Martin's hesitant to predict yields yet but said cotton, soybean
and corn harvests may be smaller than last year.
Once harvest is complete this fall, farmers will welcome the rain
to prepare the ground for next year's crop, he said.
For the Mississippi Forestry Commission, firefighters are entering
one of their busiest times of the year.
It's made worse with trees and leaves that still blanket the
forest floor after Hurricane Katrina, said agency spokesman Kent
The first week of September, they fought 87 fires statewide that
destroyed 1,284 acres, he said. In all of September 2005, they
battled 176 blazes that charred 1,319 acres.
"We're not as bad as we were in the drought of 2000," Grizzard
said. "The only thing that's missing is the source of ignition."
Burning leaves and trash can quickly spread out of control, he
"It's so dry, it's going to take 8-10 inches of water to saturate
the ground and remove any chance of fire activity," he said.
A lack of water has weakened pine trees and given the Ips Beetle
easy prey, said Glenn Hughes, extension forester with Mississippi
State. The insect -- half the size of a rice grain -- burrows inside
the trunk and slowly kills the tree.
"I'm expecting the situation to get worse before it gets better,"
he said. "I'm telling people to watch out for their trees whether
they're forest landowners or homeowners."
Look for globs of sap on trunks to determine whether a pine tree
is infested, he said. It's the mark of where the beetle entered.
As the beetles settle inside, the tree's needles will turn from
green to yellow to rusty red, he said. Then, it's too late.
"Once they begin fading, it's all over," Hughes said. "You really
do need to take it down."
Martinson said homeowners need to water their grass, flowers and
trees several times a week.
"People who have got an irrigation system are the luckiest people
in the world right now," he said. "This is a tough one, and we just
have not had any rain."
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