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Missouri ripe for floods as farmers wait to plant

Monday, March 31, 2008 | 8:13 p.m. CDT; updated 9:32 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

COLUMBIA — A four-month period of high precipitation levels coupled with Monday’s rainfall may not have ripened Missouri crops, but it has certainly ripened flood conditions.

“We are experiencing a higher flood potential than we’ve seen in a long time,” said Pat Guinan, a climatologist with MU’s Extension Commercial Agriculture Program.

Tips on flood preparations

Click here for the MU Extension Office's links to aid in flood preparation. Click here for tips from the American Red Cross.


Guinan said the soil is saturated, and rivers and streams are running at above average levels.

“Any rainfall we get will immediately translate to runoff and lead to rapid rises,” he said.

The saturation levels caused by abnormally high precipitation during the months of December, January, February and March were the highest during that period since a major flood hit Missouri 35 years ago.

“The last four consecutive months have seen above normal perception,” Guinan said. “You’d have to go back to 1973 to see a wetter December-March period.”

For example, this March’s rainfall, calculated at Sanborn Field, is sitting at 4.85 inches so far— 1.64 inches above average.

For farmers, the extra moisture can be detrimental during planting season. Columbia farmer Rick Goodman said the extra precipitation has prevented him from planting most of his earliest crops: potatoes, peas, lettuce and spinach.

“I haven’t been able to plant much of anything because the ground is so wet I can’t really get anything in,” Goodman said.

He added that too much water can suffocate crops.

“You need oxygen around the roots, not just water,” he said of his crops. “There’s no question they have all the water they can handle.”

Flooding is dangerous for drivers, too.

According to Capt. Eric Hartman of the Columbia Fire Department, drivers should not risk driving on flooded roads, no matter how shallow, since roads could be washed away below.

“We always caution everybody to ‘Turn around, don’t drown,’” Hartman said.

Hartman also cautioned against walking out in flooded areas.

“It only takes six inches of fast-moving water to sweep a standard-sized person off their feet,” he said.

The Columbia Fire Department, according to a news release, has already responded to six water rescues since the first of the year, but there have been no injuries so far.

Even though Goodman jokes about the flood in 1993, which he calls his “vacation on a lake,” he said he hopes there won’t be any similar flooding this year.

But Goodman still laughs about Missouri weather.

“A guy once said to me, ‘The water in Missouri is like bananas. It always comes in bunches,’” Goodman said. “When it stops, it will stop for a real long time, and then everyone will be complaining about how dry it is.”


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