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Archive for Sunday, January 7, 2007

Storm could help western Kansas crops

January 7, 2007

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The winter storm that has crippled western Kansas for more than a week, devastating ranchers and leaving tens of thousands of people without power, could have a bright spot: It's likely to help the area's crops.

"There is an underlying sense of joy. It's in almost everybody you talk with," Wallace County Sheriff Larry Townsend said. "We've been in a drought the last seven years. We feel like maybe this is the end of it. All the old-timers tell us droughts are broke with bad snowstorms. This snow laid really good; I think we'll be looking at it for a while."

The storm dumped up to 3 feet of snow in some areas, and Alan Schlegel, agronomist with Kansas State University's Southwest Research and Extension Center in Tribune, said every foot of snow means at least an inch of moisture. Winter wheat, which is planted in the fall and harvested in the spring, could particularly benefit.

"It's good for the crops, the winter wheat," Schlegel said.

Even western Kansas rancher Mark Smith, who has farms in Wallace and Greeley counties, is optimistic, although his feeder cows have lost weight in recent days.

"All I can see is 230 bushels of corn and green grass," he said.

Utility crews continued to work Saturday to restore power to residents who still did not have electricity more than a week after the storm system blew into Kansas.

Kansas National Guard spokeswoman Sharon Watson said she did not know how many people were still without power, but she said progress was being made. She noted that one utility, Kansas Rural Electric Co-op, had reported that 11,000 meters were still off-line, down from a high of 23,000 Tuesday.

The Guard was helping utility crews Saturday by hauling poles and making sure their vehicles could drive through muddy areas, she said. Guardsmen also were delivering hay for ranchers who requested it. Many stressed cattle in western Kansas have died or lost weight while waiting to be fed.

Watson noted that a storm that moved through the area Friday didn't cause new problems.

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