News Exclusive: More than 1 million acres of U.S. cropland ravaged by floods
„There’s thousands of acres that won’t be able to be planted,” Ryan Sonderup, 36, of Fullerton, Nebraska, who has been farming for 18 years, said in a recent interview.
„If we had straight sunshine now until May and June, maybe it can be done, but I don’t see how that soil gets back with expected rainfall.”
Spring floods could yet impact an even bigger area of cropland. The U.S. government’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has warned of what could be an „unprecedented flood season” as it forecasts heavy spring rains. Rivers may swell further as a deep snow pack in northern growing areas melts.
The bomb cyclone of mid-March was the latest blow to farmers suffering from years of falling income and lower exports because of the U.S.-China trade war.
Fields are strewn with everything from silt and sand to tires and some may not even be farmed this year. The water has also destroyed billions of dollars of old crops that were in storage, as well as damaging roads and railways.
Justin Mensik, a fifth-generation farmer of corn and soybeans in Morse Bluff, Nebraska, said rebuilding roads was the first priority. Then farmers would need to bring in fertilizer trucks and then test soil before seeding, Mensik said.
The flood „left a lot of silt and sand and mud in our fields, now we’re not too sure if we’re going to be able to get a good crop this year with all the new mud and junk that’s just laying here,” Mensik told Reuters.
For farmers, „the biggest concern right now is corn planting,” said Aaron Saeugling, an agriculture expert at Iowa State University who does outreach with farmers. „There is just not going to be enough time to move a lot of that debris.”
To be fully covered by crop insurance, Iowa farmers must plant corn by May 31 and soybeans by June 15, as yields decline dramatically when planted any later. Deadlines vary state by state. The insurance helps ensure a minimum price farmers will receive when they book sales for their crops.
Nearly 1.1 million acres of cropland and more than 84,000 acres of pastureland in the U.S. Midwest had flood water on it for at least seven days between March 8 and March 21, according to a preliminary analysis of government and satellite data by New-York based Gro Intelligence at the request of Reuters. The extent of the flooding had previously not been made public.
The flooded acreage represents less than 1 percent of U.S. land used to grow corn, soybeans, wheat, rice, cotton, sorghum and barley. In 2018, some 240 million total acres of these crops were planted in the United States, USDA data shows.
Iowa, the top U.S. corn and No. 2 soy producing state, had the most water, covering 474,271 acres, followed by Missouri with 203,188 acres, according to Gro Intelligence. That was in line with estimates given to Reuters this week by government officials in Iowa and Missouri.
Gro Intelligence used satellite data from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Near Real-Time Global Flood Mapping product, to calculate the approximate extent and intensity of flooding.
Gro Intelligence then identified how much of this area was either cropland or pastureland, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS).
Gro Intelligence analysts cautioned the satellite imagery did not show the full extent of flooding in Nebraska, where officials declined to provide acreage estimates to Reuters, or in North Dakota. Nebraska’s governor has said the floods caused agricultural damage of $1 billion in his state.
Cloud cover or snow on the ground makes it difficult to identify the flood waters in NASA satellite data, said Sara Menker, chief executive of the agricultural artificial intelligence company.
In Missouri, floodwaters covered roughly 200,000 acres in five northwest counties adjoining the Missouri River as of Wednesday morning, said Charlie Rahm, spokesman for USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in Columbia.
In Wisconsin more than 1,000 dairy and beef animals were lost during winter storms and 480 agricultural structures collapsed or damaged, according to an email from Sandy Chalmers, executive director of the Wisconsin state office of the USDA’s Farm Service Agency.
In the Dakotas and Minnesota, melting snows in coming months will put spring wheat planting at risk. Gro Intelligence found nearly 160 million acres have already been flooded in Minnesota.
„That’s yet to come and we will deal with that at least until the middle of April,” said Dave Nicolai, an agriculture expert at the University of Minnesota.
(Reporting by P.J. Huffstutter in Chicago and Humeyra Pamuk in Nebraska; Additional reporting by Tom Polansek and Karl Plume in Chicago; Writing by Caroline Stauffer; Editing by Simon Webb and Matthew Lewis)
„Used to be at the top of the list was flood control first place, and navigation second place. Those two things have moved to the bottom of the list,” Bullock said.
„Ever since that happened, we’ve been flooded out regularly down here in the bottom,” he added.
He’s worried his and his neighbors’ homes will be hit again this spring.
„We don’t see an end in sight yet,” Bullock said. „All of our levees are just destroyed. We have no protection from the high river now, or spring rains. We’re sitting there exposed.”
Salter contributed to this report from St. Louis.
This week has certainly shown all the temperamental sides of spring across southern Ontario with bitter wind chills and below seasonal temperatures to start and then rain showers and double digit temperatures to end. Now, as we head into the weekend, and the last days of March, winter attempts its stubborn fight back with snow and ice threatening the forecast through Sunday. More on where this snow and freezing rain sets up, plus a more hopeful look into some pleasant April spring weather, below.
Spring is here! Check our UPDATED Spring Forecast to see what the season has ahead, plus get an EXCLUSIVE sneak peek at Summer 2019!
- During the overnight hours on Friday and through Saturday morning, a rain/snow line sets up across southern Ontario
- Accumulating snow likely for portions of cottage country and the higher elevations towards Grey Bruce
- Heaviest amounts of rain focused across the southwest and northern shores of Lake Erie
- Chillier temperatures through the weekend with brief risk of freezing rain for parts of eastern Ontario
- Latest watches and warnings HERE
THIS WEEK DOESN’T END TOO BADLY
Although the first round of unsettled weather brought some scattered rain showers across southern Ontario through Thursday, the rising and milder temperatures didn’t make things feel too badly by day’s end. On Friday, the clouds will give way to more sunshine with temperatures hovering around the seasonal mark.
„Clouds will linger for much of the day towards Lake Erie and Niagara and the warmest weather will be to the north where we see the most sunshine,” says Weather Network meteorologist Dr. Doug Gillham.
BURST OF WEEKEND SNOW, COOL AND BLUSTERY BY SUNDAY
While a major storm doesn’t seem in the cards, March may be going out with at least a bit of a lion’s roar for southern Ontario this weekend. A system tracking into the region through the overnight hours on Friday is set to bring rain, snow, and some blustery conditions.
„On Saturday, southern Ontario will be the dividing line between very warm weather to the south and colder weather just to our north. A soggy system will track along this boundary,” says Gillham.
It’s going to be a very fine line between rain and snow with this boundary, and where that line falls will mean the difference between some significant snowfall (at least, for late March), and a widespread soaking rain that develops later Friday night. The heaviest rain is focused around the southwest regions and along the northern shores of Lake Erie with between 20-30 mm expected. For much of the Greater Toronto Area, rain totals will amount to 10-20 mm.
That rain will change to freezing rain across parts of the northern Golden Horseshoe, well north of Highways 401/407 and above the escarpment.
„Across cottage country the rain will change to wet snow,” Gillham says. „Periods of rain, with wet snow and ice to the north, will continue for most of the day on Saturday with a large range in temperatures from north to south across our region.”
By Saturday night, the rain will change over to wet snow for much of southern Ontario before gradually ending through the overnight hours.
For areas below the escarpment and near Lake Ontario, snow accumulations will be pretty minor with no major travel impact expected. It will be areas further north of the 401/407 and above the escarpment that will see the more significant accumulations through Sunday morning with 5-10+ cm possible in some spots.
Should the boundary dip further south however, particularly south of Lake Ontario, some slushy accumulations or periods of reduced visibility are likely to disrupt travel at times along the 401 corridor, for areas east of Toronto toward Kingston. The 407 east of Toronto and the 416 to Ottawa are also likely to see some slippery sections as the snow changes to freezing rain and persists for periods of the day on Saturday.
„Surfaces such as highways, roads and walkways may become icy and slippery as a result,” warned Environment Canada in a special weather statement issued early Friday.
APRIL STILL TEMPERAMENTAL, BUT SHOWS SIGNS OF WARMING
Although the rain and wet snow will end by Saturday night, Sunday remains blustery and cool across much of the region. Colder than seasonal conditions are expected to persist into the start of April as well, although things look to take a turn for the warmer by the middle and end of next week.
„For the month of April as a whole we expect that temperatures will end up near seasonal – with slightly better odds that the final numbers will tip slightly to the warm side of normal,” Gillham adds.
March 2019 may prove to be the warmest March on record for many places in Alaska, with temperatures for some northern cities and towns potentially soaring 25 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit above normal
Los Angeles (AFP) – Alaska residents accustomed to subzero temperatures are experiencing a heat wave of sorts that is shattering records, with the thermometer jumping to more than 30 degrees Fahrenheit (16.7 Celsius) above normal in some regions.
„Both February and March have been exceptionally warm,” Rick Thoman, a climate specialist with the Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy, told AFP. „Many places are on their way to their warmest March on record.”
He said that cities and towns in the northern half of the state, including Wainwright, Nuiqsut, Kaktovik and Barrow (also known as Utqiagvik), could see temperatures soar 25 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit (14 to 22 Celsius) above normal this weekend as the warm trend continues.
„At Barrow, through yesterday, they’ve had daily record high temperatures five separate days this month … and that’s quite an achievement,” Thoman said.
„This is following on the heels of the very warm, and in some places record warm February,” he added. „We now have April or May weather in March.”
In Barrow, for example, the temperature jumped to 30 degrees Fahrenheit (-1 Celsius) on Thursday when the normal high is minus three Fahrenheit.
„Deadhorse, AK, is set to finish March about 23°F (12.7 Celsius) above normal for the month,” Brian Brettschneider, a climatologist based in Alaska tweeted on Thursday.
Thoman predicts the warm streak to continue through April, with the highest temperature spikes expected in the western part of the state.
– Frozen rivers melting early –
He said the dramatic warming Alaska has experienced in recent years — which is partly linked to a decline in sea ice and Arctic ocean warming — had wreaked havoc on local communities, wildlife and the economy.
Many recreational sled dog races have had to be canceled this year and the routing of the famed Iditarod race had to be changed as what is normally solid sea ice was open water on part of the race route.
Crab fishing has also been affected as the sea ice used as a platform for fishermen was non-existent or too thin in some areas.
Thoman said the seal population is also likely to be affected in the coming months as some of the species give birth on solid ice.
Amy Holman, regional coordinator for Alaska at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said the warmth has in addition had a deep impact on transportation as two thirds of communities in Alaska are not accessible via roads.
„In the winter, frozen rivers become major transportation corridors connecting villages,” she told AFP. „The Kuskokwim River is a primary example of this.
„The warmer temperatures have melted the rive ice to the extent it is no longer safe for truck or car travel.”
Thoman said global warming had led to the lowest ice levels in the Bering Sea — which connects with the Arctic Ocean — since 1850, when sea ice records began.
„My worst fear is the speed of change and being able to cope,” he said. „Alaskans are resilient, our indigenous culture has been here for 10,000 years but change has never occurred at this pace.”
Record-breaking flooding has forced dozens of people on a South Dakota reservation to evacuate and ranchers were working Thursday to get their livestock to higher ground while waiting for a river to crest.
High water from the Moreau River is threatening about 50 residences in an 8-mile (12.8-kilometer) stretch between White Horse and Thomas in north-central South Dakota, said Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe spokesman Remi Bald Eagle. He said about half a dozen people were rescued by helicopter. The tribe has asked others to voluntarily evacuate.
Bald Eagle said no injuries have been reported but some residents are refusing to leave because their cattle are trapped by flooding.
„Everybody is afraid that their livelihoods are going to be swept up by the water obviously,” Bald Eagle said. „It is really a critical time for the livestock folks because right now their cattle are all calving.”
The reservation has deployed 20,000 sandbags and a Pennington County rescue team is on hand if needed.
The National Weather Service said the worst appears to be over. The river has been as high as 28 feet (8.5 meters), or 8 feet (2 meters) above flood stage. It stood at about 23 feet (7.01 meters) Thursday morning and is expected to crest at 24 feet (7.3 meters) over the weekend, South Dakota meteorologist Jeff Chapman said.
On the Pine Ridge Reservation in southern South Dakota, the Oglala Sioux tribe is transitioning into recovery mode after flooding swamped roads, trapped people in homes and cut off water supplies to thousands.
„A lot of people lost their homes,” said state Rep. Peri Pourier, who is executive director of the Pine Ridge Reservation Emergency Relief nonprofit. „It’s going to be a big recovery effort — getting the manpower, the materials and resources to help recover.”
Elsewhere, meteorologists in Montana said a spring storm that is bringing rain and snow may lead to additional flooding as the runoff flows into rivers and streams already swollen with snowmelt. And North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum declared a statewide flood emergency after touring inundated homes in the western part of the state on Wednesday.
Rain is expected to prolong the flood fight along the swollen Missouri River , creating a second crest east of Kansas City. The river’s first crest is still making its way downstream, but the worst of the flooding is upstream in Missouri’s Holt and Atchison counties, where multiple levees breached.
Associated Press writers Matt Volz in Helena, Montana, and Heather Hollingsworth in Kansas City, Missouri, contributed to this report
Corrections & Clarifications: A previous version of this article misstated the distance of the man’s fall.
PHOENIX – An international tourist died after he fell hundreds of feet into the Grand Canyon while trying to take photos Thursday, authorities say.
According to David Leibowitz, a spokesman for Grand Canyon West, a tour group from Hong Kong was visiting the Grand Canyon, and many of the tourists were taking photos very close to the rim of the canyon.
While attempting to snap a photo at Eagle Point, adjacent to the popular Skywalk attraction, a 50-year-old man from the group accidentally fell off the rim and into the canyon.
According to Leibowitz, a helicopter search located the man’s body at the bottom of the canyon. His body will be transported by helicopter to the nearest hospital.
His identity hasn’t been released.
Grand Canyon West is an area of the canyon west of Grand Canyon National Park that is owned and operated by the Hualapai Indian Tribe. The tribal nation operates the popular Skywalk bridge and other attractions in that area, which is west of the National Park.
Extreme weather events, supercharged by climate change, affected some 62 million people around the world in 2018, the United Nations’ weather agency said Thursday.
In its yearly „State of the Climate” report, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said the planet’s biggest weather woes last year were floods (which swamped some 35 million people), and droughts, which affected another 9 million.
Since 1998, about 4.5 billion around the world have been hurt by extreme weather.
“We have seen a growing amount of disasters because of climate change,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas.
Taalas said that in the past 25 years, climate science has improved dramatically. This has provided solid evidence of accelerating sea level rise, shrinking sea ice, increasingly acidic oceans, glacier retreat, shrinking polar ice, and extreme events such as heat waves.
The report said the Earth is almost 2 degrees (Fahrenheit) warmer than it was in the late 1800s, and that the past four years have been the warmest on record.
Climate change, aka global warming, is caused by burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas, which release greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane into the Earth’s atmosphere and oceans. This has raised the global temperature and also worsened climate and weather disasters around the world, the U.N. said.
Climate crisis: Coal still king as global carbon emissions soar
Levels of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere reached record levels in 2018.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Thursday that „climate change is a security and health issue for the world.”
UN’s dire warning: Act now on Earth’s environment as human health ‘increasingly threatened’
The devastation shows no signs of letting up: “Extreme weather has continued in early 2019, most recently with Tropical Cyclone Idai, which caused devastating floods and tragic loss of life in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi,” said Taalas. „It may turn out to be one of the deadliest weather-related disasters to hit the Southern Hemisphere.”
At least 750 people were killed in the storm. with millions more in need of urgent help.
Contributing: The Associated Press