Warm temps, wet weather could hurt future business

Published 6:00 am Sunday, January 14, 2007

April showers might bring May flowers, but heavy January showers could do them harm.

Irregular December and January weather could hurt agriculturally based businesses, like tourism, landscaping and farming, for months to come, experts say.

A blooming economy

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“Flowers are a big part of tourism,” Natchez Tourism Director Walter Tipton said. “The reason we have Spring Pilgrimage in the month it’s in is that’s the time azaleas start blooming. A lot of people plan their trips for this area for the azaleas and camellias.”

Tipton said he and others were a little worried this year because the weather had been unusually warm recently.

“It being so warm causes things to bloom early, and if we have a late frost, it kills all the flowers,” Tipton said. “That’s what I’m concerned about.”

Flowers during spring tourist season are pretty important in making a good first impression, Tipton said. Most tourists would probably not cancel their trips because flowers weren’t blooming, but a flower-strewn city is more likely to bring them back next year.

An uncertain forecast

While it’s hard to say what the coming months will bring, late December’s deluge has many hoping any more rain will hold off for a while.

January’s rainfall is about average right now, but last month’s rain soaked the ground, said Christopher Bannan, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Jackson.

“The problem is we got quite a bit of rainfall the last week of December, and any more rain we get causes problems,” Bannan said.

The heavy rain is unusual, he said, especially given the weather patterns in play this year.

“Wit the El Niño pattern, we usually aren’t very wet around here,” Bannan said. “So it’s kind of another strange pattern.”

The thermometer has been reading high recently, too, which could mean trouble for plants.

“The temperatures have been running above normal for quite a while,” he said. “Vicksburg’s lows have been running 10 to 12 degrees above normal, and five to 10 degrees above normal for highs.”

A blast of cold air could be coming our way in the near future, though, Bannan said.

“The way patterns are setting up, we may be around or below normal for the rest of this month,” he said. “A lot of cold air is building up north, so it should keep us cool for quite a while.”

Soggy fields, rain and airplanes

Weather this time of year can touch off a domino effect on farming that can be felt for months to come.

“Right now, the only crop out there (in the Miss-Lou) is wheat,” Agriculture Consultant Cecil Parker said. “The excessive rain drowns it out.”

The rain can affect the wheat crop in other ways, too, Parker said.

“In about two weeks from now, everybody’s going to start putting herbicide down to kill the winter weeds,” he said. “If it continues to stay wet, everybody will have to use an airplane.”

When the herbicide is dispensed by air, it has the potential to drift over to the already-growing wheat and kill the crop, he said.

Also, there are only so many airplanes to do the job, and a waiting list for airplanes means a possibly late and light harvest down the road.

“It’s a domino effect,” he said.

Rain and weather can affect the planting cycle in other ways, too, said Noble Guedon, a Natchez farmer.

“What can happen is, if you have continuous rain in late winter, if the fields are wet when it’s time to plant, it can delay the planting dates,” Guedon said. “It needs to be dry or at an optimal condition for planting.”


Cool weather after warm periods could mean trouble for landscaping plants, too, said Dick Thompson, owner of Live Oaks Nursery and Landscaping.

“The deciduous plants and trees that don’t usually put out leaves until March and April are putting out leaves now,” Thompson said.

After this period of warm weather, a cold snap could really damage the tender leaves and buds.

“All these blooms people are coming out to see are going to get caught by the freeze,” he said.

Along with tourism, Thompson said his business is affected by temperature fluctuations and heavy rains, too.

“The rain devastates your outside work,” he said. “It just shuts you down. It’s too wet to work. And for every day of rain, you lose a day or two of work” because the ground has to dry out.

Thompson said he has seen odd winter weather patterns before, and he isn’t worried about the long-term. Things will shake themselves out, he said.

“Everything will live through it,” Thompson said. “Mother Nature is very forgiving and adaptable.”