Perhaps the biggest pastime in spring is watching the weather. I could be just searching for a nice Saturday to visit a park or checking to see if I need to carry an umbrella to the office. For farmers and ranchers, however, spring weather is high stakes and full of questions.
Will there be enough rain to awaken the wheat crop and carry it through to maturity? If there is, will it be too much to prevent planting corn and soybeans? Will there be enough moisture to grow enough grass for cattle to graze?
Unfortunately for more than three quarters of the state right now, the biggest question is when will the drought break? The northeast corner is the only portion of Kansas not experiencing a moisture deficiency currently. More than 40 counties are wholly or in part in an exceptional drought according to the most recent report.
Most natural disasters are quick, but a drought is an open-ended catastrophe that grinds on day after day. Pictures and video do little to convey the effects the absence of water has on those who live through it. At least with a tornado or flood, you can start picking up the pieces relatively quickly. With a drought, you’re just left to endure until the rains return.
We’re moving into the height of severe weather season in Kansas. Thanks to the drought, fire is also a potential hazard in addition to the usual thunderstorms and tornadoes. While we can’t prevent severe weather out-breaks, there’s plenty of steps to take in advance to be prepared.
It starts with developing a good plan while hoping you never need to implement it. This can be as simple as a space in a basement with some bottled water, a battery-operated radio and some flashlights or candles for storms capable of producing tornados. Now’s a good time to check those batteries if they’ve been sitting in a stockpile for a while.
For those who don’t have a basement, a windowless room is the next safest place to ride out a storm. If you’re outside, find a low-lying area, preferably away from trees, to lie flat and cover your head with your arms.
In the event of a flashflood, immediately move to higher ground and don’t drive through flooded roadways. The current is capable of carrying away a vehicle, plus there’s all kinds of potential dangers obscured by the water.
The second step is to be aware of current forecasts and know when there’s potential for severe weather in your area. The National Weather Service has a good track record of predicting when weather systems can go from normal to life threatening. A “watch” means conditions are favorable for severe weather to develop. It’s a reminder to be alert for worsening conditions. A “warning” is the signal to implement you plan as quickly as possible.
If watching the weather isn’t already part of your spring routine, now’s a good time to add it to your to-do list so you’re prepared to act if it becomes necessary.
“Insight” is a weekly column published by Kansas Farm Bureau, the state’s largest farm organization whose mission is to strengthen agriculture and the lives of Kansans through advocacy, education and service.