Monday April 22, 2019
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Midwest Farmers Dealing with Flood Water in a Planting Season

“Never had anything like this before. Not this kind of a flood,” said Geisler, who is still in a daze and trying to grasp all his losses

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Midwest Farmer 'Still In A Daze' At What The Devastating Flood Left Behind. VOA

Tom Geisler has experienced many ups and downs in his 43 years of farming, as weather sometimes helped and often hurt his livelihood. But he was not prepared for what Mother Nature brought this spring.

“Never had anything like this before. Not this kind of a flood,” said Geisler, who is still in a daze and trying to grasp all his losses. In March, melting snow from a harsh winter combined with a “bomb cyclone” storm caused historic flooding in the fields and communities across the Midwest.

Geisler cultivates corn, soy beans and hay, and raises cattle on 162 hectares (400 acres) of his family’s farm near Hooper, Nebraska. The water has mostly receded, but it left a mess in his fields, and his 134-year-old farm house is unlivable.

Bad timing 

In 10 minutes, Geisler said, water filled his basement and crept into his home. During the worst of the flood, he helplessly listened as his recently born calves cried in distress.

“(They were) bawling all night. Just about made us heartbroken, but they survived. I thought they’d be gone,” Geisler remembered. “(I) couldn’t even get to my calves. It was five foot (1.5 meters) deep out there. I couldn’t even feed them. Two calves are completely gone. They floated away and two cows died.”

Timing is bad since it is calving season. Geisler hopes the rest of his cattle recover from the stress of standing in icy water for long periods of time. As for his land, after it dries up, he will have to clear some areas of sand deposits before he can start planting late in the growing season this spring. He estimates the floods did $100,000 in damages to the fences around his farm.

“We lived on this place for 32 years since I’ve been married to my wife, Frances. … My mother’s been at her place all of her life. She’s 90 years old, and she’s never seen anything like this, either.”

Extreme weather 

Geisler said in the last three years, the weather has been more wet and “extreme” and the storms are “getting intense.”

“We haven’t had a good week of weather since the first week of August of last year. It’s been raining every one or two days every week since then,” he said.

He said over the course of 40 years, farmers may have made the problem worse by switching to row crops like corn instead of grass, alfalfa and small grains such as wheat to feed cattle.

flood, midwest farmers
Tom Geisler farms corn, soy beans, hay and cattle. He lost two cows and two calves in the flood. (Photo: Elizabeth Lee / VOA)

“Now, it’s almost all row crops, so a lot of the water just runs off. I think that has affected our flooding quite a bit.” Geisler explained. “Just really be nice if we all had a patch of grass to hold some water back. Too much land has been highly erodible that’s in row crops right now, I think.”

About six years ago, many farmers replaced grass with corn because of the demand for ethanol and an “excellent” export market, Geisler said.

He pointed to topsoil that had washed away from the fields. He said it takes 100 years to make an inch (2.54 cm) of topsoil, and “probably half an inch is gone. So, that’s 50 years worth of soil.”

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One day at a time

Geisler said he will work on repairing the flood damage one day at a time. His younger son, a future farmer, will help.

“We’ve always been resilient, so hopefully we can come back (and) farm some more. I’m the fifth generation of farmers, so hopefully we can continue that trend. I don’t want to give up. Sometimes you feel like it, but I don’t want to.” (VOA)

Next Story

Prompt Evacuations in Southwestern Iran After Heavy Rains

Besides heavy rains, heavy damage from the floods has been blamed on widespread disregard for safety regulations in building and road constructions near rivers.

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A general view of the flooded city of Poldokhtar in the Lorestan province, April 2, 2019. Officials have ordered mass evacuations in neighboring Khuzestan as extensive rainfall reaches the oil-rich southwestern province. VOA

Iranian authorities have ordered the evacuation of six more towns in the southwestern province of Khuzestan, which is widely inundated with floods, state TV reported Saturday.

Gholamreza Shariati, the provincial governor, told state TV that rescue teams are taking residents to nearby shelters, including three army barracks.

Evacuation orders came as a new round of rain and floods is expected.

Shariati said emergency discharges from dams and reservoirs were adding to the high floodwaters, but such measures were essential to prevent the dams from overflowing or catastrophic breaches, with river waters continuing to rise upstream from the province.

Young men were asked to remain behind to help with rescue operations.

An Iranian woman walks through a flooded street in the city of Poldokhtar in the Lorestan province, April 02, 2019.
An Iranian woman walks through a flooded street in the city of Poldokhtar in the Lorestan province, April 02, 2019. VOA

Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli told state TV that about 400,000 people are at risk out of the province’s population of 5 million.

Eleven towns and scores of villages have been evacuated. There have been no evacuation orders for major cities, including the province’s capital of Ahvaz, which has 1.7 million residents.

There have been no reports of damage to the province’s petroleum facilities, which account for roughly 80 percent of Iran’s oil production.

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Authorities have put the number of dead at 70 people, as major flooding has hit the western half of the country, after years of drought.

Besides heavy rains, heavy damage from the floods has been blamed on widespread disregard for safety regulations in building and road constructions near rivers. (VOA)