June 1, 2011


By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

Everyone probably remembers the old children’s rhyme that went “Rain, rain, go away; please come again another day.” Well, this year it is not only the children that are pleading for the rains to go away. The entire state of North Dakota, as well as the majority of states in the upper Midwest and along the Missouri and Mississippi drainage areas are absolutely being inundated with unprecedented levels of moisture.
Even those of us in western North Dakota, who never want to complain about getting moisture, are anxiously awaiting the arrival of bright sunny skies and a forecast that doesn’t call for rain. And dare we say, we are hoping for some hot temperatures.
It seems almost incredible that two years ago, western North Dakota was in the middle of one of the worst droughts we’ve experienced. Our rivers were nothing more than just puddles, stock dams were empty and Lake Sakakawea was rapidly approaching its original river channels.
Who would have ever thought that today, we’d have more water than we want? Our rivers are running at full capacity and Lake Sakakawea is forecast to actually start going over the spillway as a record amount of water is flowing into the Missouri and Yellowstone rivers because of record winter snowfalls and spring rains.
And all of this water is not good. Just ask the people in south Bismarck and Mandan who are now desperately sandbagging to save their homes and their communities. Or ask the people along the Mississippi River that are being flooded out because of high water levels.
Or ask the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the federal agency that is charged with managing the Missouri River and Mississippi drainage systems, which is now trying to work with local and state agencies along the entire Missouri River system to try to control all of the flooding because of the record runoff levels.
Closer to home, ask the people that need to travel on North Dakota Highways 22 and 73 which have been closed because of slides caused by the excessive spring rains. Or ask the North Dakota Dept. of Transportation that is now rushing to fix those roads, as well as a stretch of U.S. Highway 85 south of Watford City that is being impacted because of a slide.
Or ask the farmers in the county who have tens of thousands of acres yet to seed how all of this moisture is affecting them and their ability to have a crop to harvest this fall.
In North Dakota, we’ve always called a timely rain in the spring, summer or fall, the ‘million dollar’ rain because it saved our crops from drying up and nourished our pastures so that ranchers wouldn’t have to sell off their cattle herds.
But the rains of April and May, coupled with our record snowfall, have been ‘million dollar’ rains in reverse.
This is a land of extremes when it comes to weather. We can’t control whether it rains or the sun shines. But just as we did when we lived with drought conditions, we prayed for the rain. Maybe we need to pray a little for some dry conditions and warm temperatures.