By Bryce Anderson
DTN Senior Ag Meteorologist
OMAHA (DTN) -- The second named Atlantic Basin tropical weather system of the season, Tropical Storm Barry, is threatening to bring storm surge and heavy rain to the central Gulf Coast and the Delta. Barry reached tropical storm status early Thursday afternoon. The National Hurricane Center placed warning bulletins in effect for storm surge damage and flash flooding in the coastal areas of Louisiana and Mississippi, and for flash flooding farther inland in the lower Delta.
The threat of flooding adds to the high-water issues that producers in the Delta have endured and coped with throughout the 2019 season. "We have about 18% of our acres that were not able to be planted due to the flooding," said producer Jeremy Jack of Silent Shade Farms in Belzoni, Mississippi. "Those acres will go back under water when it rains."
Jack's farming operation is in the northern Delta. He noted that his area is in a better place (literally) than the lower Delta when it comes to rain threats from Tropical Storm Barry.
"We are surviving, but we are in a much better place than the farmers south of us. I think there is 550,000 acres under water for the past six months. It's really bad down there," Jack told DTN in an e-mail.
Much attention regarding crops will be focused on the impact of Barry-related rain on cotton and soybeans. DTN Cotton Correspondent Keith Brown said that the late start to the cotton-growing season could actually be of some benefit. "Yes, heavy rains could hurt cotton crops in southern portions of the Mississippi Delta," Brown said. "However, the crop was somewhat delayed in its spring planting due to earlier weather adversities. Thus, in its present stage of development, it is not as vulnerable to severe damage as it might have been with an older crop."
The onset of Tropical Storm Barry, with its location on the watery road of the Mississippi shipping channel, is also leading to interruptions in barge activity. As of Thursday afternoon, storm surge heights from Barry were reduced in the Hurricane Center forecast.
Tom Russell, of Russell Marine Group, told DTN Cash Grains Analyst Mary Kennedy that the lower storm surge was a welcome change. "Thank goodness it is a weak storm," Russell said. He noted that Thursday afternoon forecasts called for a storm surge of 3 to 5 feet. "The river is at 16 feet with a storm surge of 3 to 5 feet. The (New Orleans) levee protects to 20 feet, so we could have some topping," Russell said.
The National Hurricane center forecasts Tropical Storm Barry to become a weak hurricane and make landfall on the morning of July 13 in the vicinity of Morgan City, Louisiana, then track north through the Delta as a tropical depression, and move into the Missouri Bootheel by the morning of July 16.
Barry-related rain in the southern and eastern Midwest will be watched after a two-week period of below-average precipitation in the region, where corn planted into less-than-ideal soil conditions is undergoing dryness-related stress.
"If it's too dry there in the upper 2 to 3 inches of the soil, those young roots just shrivel up and die," Purdue University Extension Corn Specialist Bob Nielsen said to DTN Staff Reporter Emily Unglesbee.
DTN local forecasts place Barry-related rain amounts of 1 to 1 1/2 inches in the lower Ohio Valley during July 15-16.
Bryce Anderson can be reached at email@example.com
Follow him on Twitter @BAndersonDTN
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