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Rainfall plays havoc with farmers, construction projects

More than 75 inches of rain fell on Albany in 2013

An Oxford Construction crew sat idle at the Jefferson Street intersection project Thursday after heavy rainfall turned the site into a muddy mess. “We won’t be moving any dirt around here for a few days,” one worker groused. (Staff Photo: Terry Lewis)

An Oxford Construction crew sat idle at the Jefferson Street intersection project Thursday after heavy rainfall turned the site into a muddy mess. “We won’t be moving any dirt around here for a few days,” one worker groused. (Staff Photo: Terry Lewis)

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Work on an expansion project at the Wynfield Park Health and Rehabilitation Center at Third Avenue and Washington Street has been slow going since heavy rains of the past few weeks. (Staff Photo: Terry Lewis)

ALBANY — After at least five straight years of below-average rainfall, Southwest Georgia saw one of the wettest years in recent memory in 2013 as the skies opened up and dropped nearly 75 inches of accumulated rainfall over the region, according to GeorgiaWeather.net.

The rain played havoc with construction projects and crops, prompting Leary farmer Jimmy Webb to sigh and proclaim, “a lot of us are happy to see this past year in our rear view mirror.”

The 75 inches were recorded at the Marnie Corps Logistics Base-Albany. Southwest Georgia Regional Airport reported 58.09 inches — a depature of 5.51 inches over the weather station’s yearly average, according to the Agricultural Weather Information Service (AWIS).

June through August was especially wet. According to GeorgiaWeather, which is operated by the University of Georgia, in those three months alone, the Albany area got more than 32 inches of rain and saw 58 rainy days over the 92-day period.

“June through August are usually our busiest months of the year,” Oxford Construction President Bruce Melton said. “The rain had a tremendous affect on us. It definitely slowed us down. In June, July and August, the rainfall was way above normal. It affected the entire construction industry.

“It easily doubled the amount of rainfall we normally get. It was the wettest three-month period in the past 10 years. It just sat on us and wouldn’t break.”

The rain, while not devastating to crops, put a noticeable dent in farmers’ yields.

“Everybody’s yields were off in 2013,” Webb said. “We were coming off a record cotton crop, but we didn’t have a normal hot summer and it took the cotton longer to mature. That’s why you saw unpicked cotton in the fields later than usual. We needed a long, hot full summer and we didn’t get it.

“It’s hard for me as a farmer to fuss about too much rain, but we had too much rain,” Webb said. “We’d have been better off if we would have had to run our pivots (irrigation) more because if it didn’t rain, it was cloudy.”

Early County farmer Mike Newberry, who grows corn, peanuts and cotton among other crops, agreed.

“The crop on our farm that was most affected the most was the corn,” Newberry said. “It won’t wait around like peanuts and cotton. We had corn rotting on the stalk.”

Newberry said his peanut crop fared the best.

“We were very concerned about our peanuts,” he said. “The peanuts that were planted in well-drained areas did well. Folks who had crops in low areas that did not drain well had peanuts which were severely damaged.”

He added that the rain was not the only problem this past year.

“There were times when we’d get a half-inch of rain then three days later get another half-inch.” Newberry said. “Well, you also need sunlight to grow crops and when it wasn’t raining it was cloudy and we got no sunlight. The crops just didn’t get the heat units they needed.

“People can talk about how much rainfall we got, but the lack of consistent sunlight was the real problem.”

Arlington farmer Chad Mathis, who grows corn, cotton and peanuts on 600 acres, confirmed Newberry’s assessment.

“Our cotton crop took a major hit because we didn’t get enough heat units on the cotton,” Mathis said. “We did okay with the peanuts that were planted high and in well-drained areas, but the peanuts in low areas never developed plants, plus we had areas that held so much water we couldn’t get tractors in the fields.”

The 75 inches of rain this past year marked a stark contrast from the drought years of 2011 (37 inches) and 2012 (33 inches).

“The rain definitely had an affect on us in 2013, it was not a normal year,” Mathis said. “But I’d hate to say 2011 and 2012 were normal because that wasn’t either.”