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Laclede County farmer dies in lightning strike

Thursday, October 8, 2009 | 1:36 p.m. CDT; updated 3:22 p.m. CDT, Thursday, October 8, 2009

ST. LOUIS — Lightning struck and killed a southwest Missouri farmer checking on his cattle Thursday, as storms pelted the Midwest and threatened a harvest already delayed by earlier rains.

Communities in Missouri, Illinois and Kansas were under flash flood warnings, with intense downpours drenching parts of Kansas and several inches of rain expected in parts of Missouri and Illinois into Friday.

One farmer was struck by lightning around 9:30 a.m. in the Phillipsburg area about 175 miles southwest of St. Louis, Laclede County Emergency Management Director Jonathan Ayres said. The man's family didn't realize there was a problem until about an hour and a half later, when the farmer didn't come back inside, said Ayres, who did not immediately release the man's name.

A cow also was killed in the lightning strike.

A handful of low-lying roads flooded, but there were few traffic problems, transportation officials said. Other than the farmer hit by lightning, no other deaths or injuries were reported.

This week's rain was another set back for corn and soybean farmers in Missouri and Illinois, where spring rains delayed planting and the harvest is already weeks behind schedule. Falling temperatures also have brought a threat of frost.

Dave Down, a 64-year-old farmer with land near land near Peoria, Ill., has brought in only 90 of his 950 acres of corn and none of his 550 acres of soybeans.

"It's sort of frustrating," Down said. "Here I am, with about 10 percent of my corn picked and no beans. Usually this time of year, we're two-thirds done."

"This whole year has been terrible," he added. At this rate — assuming a freeze doesn't claim his crop — "I think the women will be bringing Thanksgiving dinner out to the combines."

In Illinois, the National Weather Service expected 2 to 4 inches of rain across parts of the southern and central sections of the state before tapering off Friday. Drier-but-cooler conditions were forecast there for the weekend, with highs generally in the 50s or low 60s. However, prospects of a Sunday low near freezing in parts of Illinois' midsection threaten crops.

Anywhere from 2 to 6 inches of rain could fall in southwest Missouri around Springfield, as well as several inches in St. Louis into Friday.

"The responsible culprit is an upper-level storm system in the desert, southwest, that's drawing warm, moist air into the nation's midsection, where we have a cold front focusing the thunderstorm development," said Steve Runnels, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Springfield.


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