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Southeast Sizzles While Midwest Sloshes With AM-Flood Rdp, Bjt

July 21, 1993

Undated (AP) _ While the Midwest suffers from rain and floods, the Southeast continues to sizzle under scorching heat that is withering crops in their fields.

Blame it on dueling weather fronts that refuse to budge, weather forecasters say.

″We feel very sorry for those folks out there″ in the flooded Midwest, Georgia farmer Bobby Webster said Tuesday. ″We see them losing everything they have from the water.

″Here, the process is a little slower. First, the drought gets the crops, then they (lenders) come later and get the house.″

Webster grows cotton, corn and soybeans in Burke County south of Augusta, Ga., where the high hit 104 on Monday.

Jim Noffsinger, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Atlanta, said a high pressure front stalled over the Southeast has blocked upper level moisture from the Gulf of Mexico. At the same time, a low pressure system has covered the Northwest.

This, Noffsinger said, has caused a lot of moisture to flow from the Gulf into the Midwest, while the South has been hot and dry since mid-June.

″Between the hot weather and cold weather is where you have the disturbed weather,″ he said. ″The thing is that these patterns have not really changed. They have been stationary, semi-permanent, for the past two weeks.″

Experts are not sure what causes such stalls.

″If you asked 10 people to explain it, they would have 10 different answers,″ Noffsinger said.

Widely scattered thunderstorms and irrigation systems have spared some of the Southeast’s farmers, but many have watched helplessly as their crops and pastureland dried up.

″The value to farmers and agribusinesses is going to be tremendously devastating,″ said Wendell Dunaway of the Central Georgia Co-op Inc. in Hawkinsville. ″The corn crop is already gone. Cotton is already out tremendously in yields. It’s yet to be determined how bad peanuts are going to be. It’s going to be worse if we don’t get any rain.″

In South Carolina, officials estimated last week that at least $200 million in agricultural and livestock production already was lost.

Poultry farmers are busy trying to keep their animals cool as crop farmers try to keep their land irrigated.

Claud Rutherford, vice president of live production for Simmons Industries Inc. in Siloam Springs, Ark., said chickens quit eating during the hottest part of the day.

″In the past two weeks, we have lost about 10,000 birds in northwest Arkansas, southwest Missouri and northeastern Oklahoma,″ Rutherford said.

The heat wave has also had people turning up air conditioners as high as they’ll go.

Both the Southern Co., parent of five electric utilities serving four states, and the Tennessee Valley Authority reported record demands for power Monday. And sales of fans and air conditioners soared.

″I guess we’ve told several dozen people that we’re sold out,″ said Brian Schuster, a salesman at Lowe’s in Gainesville, Ga., northeast of Atlanta.

Scattered thunderstorms have provided some relief, but they bring problems more akin to those of the Midwest. About 3.5 inches of rain fell in south Georgia’s Tift County on Monday during a storm that caused flooding, power outages and downed trees.

″These spotty showers are not what we need,″ said Perry Dykes of the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service in Washington County, Tenn. ″They come quick in the middle of the afternoon, and the ground dries back real quick.″

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