DECATUR — The weekend’s downpour could cost local farmers, who now must contend with flooding in the middle of planting season.
Four straight days with rain, including most of the day on Saturday and Sunday, ended up dumping 3 inches of water on Decatur — nearly the average for the entire month of April, according to the National Weather Service at Lincoln. There was even more to the east and south, with many areas in Christian, Moultrie and Shelby counties reaching 4 to 5 inches.
And while rain in Central Illinois didn’t reach the levels it did in Southern Illinois, where some areas experienced up to 9 inches, there was still enough flooding that could potentially have washed away planting local farmers had done, and delayed planting for those who hadn’t planted yet.
Macon County Farm Bureau Executive Vice President Tim Stock said the effect of the flooding won’t be known completely until the water drains off.
“We’re waiting to see what’s been planted and whether or not it’s all washed out,” Stock said. “Some guys held off with soybean planting because they knew how much rain was coming. But for those who did, we’ll just have to wait and see how things played out.
“If their initial planning was washed away and they have to re-plant, you’re talking about buying more seed, another nitrogen application for corn and fuel for equipment, especially if they have to till again.”
Farmer Cory Ritter, who farms about 2,000 acres of corn and soybeans in Macon and Christian counties, said he hadn’t planted soybeans yet and didn’t think his corn crop overall would be adversely affected.
“It was a large amount of rain, but nothing we haven’t seen before,” Ritter said. “That much rain doesn’t help the corn by any means, but it wasn’t a disaster. There will be areas that need to be replanted, but there’s still time to get that done and still have good yield potential. It depends on how fast things get dried out.
“For me personally, the cold temperatures are more of a concern than the water. The areas that flooded are areas we’re used to seeing flood during times of heavy rain, which we get pretty much every year.”
Ritter said he knows some farmers who have planted some soybeans, but few have planted all.
“It’s still a little early for soybeans,” Ritter said. “May is usually the target time. We’d like to be planted now, but I don’t see it being delayed terribly.”
The National Weather Service in Lincoln’s Chris Miller, a warning coordination meteorologist, said no major roads in Central Illinois were affected by flooding, but there are areas in low spots and near creeks and streams with standing water. Miller said Monday morning that he expected the Sangamon River to crest in the coming 24 to 36 hours.
“That’s going to result in what we consider minor flooding in some of the bottom areas near the river and rural roadways, but nowhere near the worst flooding that’s occurred on that river,” Miller said.
Rick Marley, public works director for the city of Decatur, and Sgt. Jim Hermann of the Macon County Sheriff’s Office said the effects of flooding in Macon County had been minimal.
“It was remarkably little for as much rain as we had,” Marley said. “The rain came over a long period of time. There were some short bursts of heavy rain, but they were very short, so there weren’t any extensive problems.”
The sheriff’s office reported water on the road on the 6300 block of West Main Street in Harristown, the 9300 block of Blue Mound Road and multiple roads around rural Warrensburg. But none of those roads were closed.
“We put up some signs that there was water on the road, but I worked the day shift all weekend and we didn’t get any calls for damage from flooding,” Hermann said.
Red Tail Run Golf Club opened Monday with cart use on paths only. But Decatur Park District District Manager of Golf Kurt Rogers said it would be a week or longer before Hickory Point Golf Course or Scovill Golf Club were playable.
"Red Tail has modern technology as far as drainage. It's laid out to survive a huge rain," Rogers said. "Hickory will take a week to dry out and get into some semblance of normalcy. It's not the worse flood ever, but the water is out pretty far.
"Scovill is all the way to the top. It could be a little longer."
The Rock Springs-Fairview Bike Trail was temporarily closed because of flooding. The Macon County Conservation District said it anticipated it would remain closed through the week until waters recede and the trail is cleared of mud and debris.
Area farmers are hoping for a dry week. Stock said if the soil does dry quickly, it may get crusted over and farmers will have to use a rotary hoe to break it up. Miller said there’s a chance of rain in the forecast late Tuesday and during the day Wednesday, though the heaviest downpours are expected south of Central Illinois.
“It’s going to hit exactly where they don’t need it,” Miller said. “But at this point, even in Central Illinois, a half-inch of rain is going to be something we need to be aware of. A lot of ditches are full and fields are flooded, so more rain could definitely cause some flooding on roadways.”
Gov. Bruce Rauner activated the State Emergency Operations Center in Springfield on Monday morning to ensure state personnel and equipment are ready to be quickly deployed if needed to help local emergency responders with flooding-related public safety issues.
Representatives from the Illinois Emergency Management Agency, Illinois State Police, state departments of natural resources, corrections, transportation and public health, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the American Red Cross are coordinating deployment of resources and personnel to help communities preparing for or already battling flooding.
State resources already deployed include inmate crews from the Illinois Department of Corrections to assist with sandbagging in Murphysboro and Desoto; delivery of sandbags and plastic to Dawson, Grand Tower and the Menard Correctional Center in Murphysboro by IDOT; traffic support from the state police. In addition, the Red Cross has a shelter in Marion with others on standby if needed.
The emergency operations center will remain activated as long as necessary.
“While the heavy rainfall and flash flood risks have subsided, we’re now focusing on river flooding that will increase in several areas throughout the week,” IEMA director James Joseph said in a news release. “We have been in close contact with our county emergency management partners for the past several days in order to best support their needs.”