July 25, 2014

USDA: Despite weather troubles, most crops are doing well

Field2While strong winds, hail and flooding damaged some Nebraska crops in recent weeks, the latest USDA report indicates the growing season for many farmers statewide is going well.

In the past week, temperatures were moderate and many areas saw adequate rain. Some growers changed out corn for soybeans this year, but the USDA’s Anthony Prillaman says many farmers are sticking with what worked during a run of good years.

“Definitely weather concerns, economic concerns, all of that goes into what the farmers end up deciding what they’re going to plant,” Prillaman says. Nationwide, about four-million fewer acres were planted in corn this year, down four-percent from last year. Prillaman says a fear of lower corn prices may’ve moved many farmers to plant more soybeans.

“The biggest thing for soybeans this year was just the economics, is what was driving that increase that we’re seeing in soybeans acres across the country,” Prillaman says.

Another USDA report on planting showed a record number of soybean acres were planted, but corn planting remained about the same or was down in several Midwestern states.

For Nebraska, about 70% of the corn was rated good to excellent, while 71% of the soybean crop was in those top two categories. Winter wheat isn’t doing quite as well, with 49% good to excellent, 31% fair and 20% poor to very poor.


Pilger residents need to mind flood plain rules when rebuilding

The destructive path of the tornado that hit the northeast Nebraska town of Pilger last month went right through the flood plain.

Bill Jones, with the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources, says any rebuilding that’s done will have to meet the flood plain management plan that was approved by the village about ten years ago.

“It’s very important, as you’re doing repairs, that you get the proper permits so everything is done ahead of time,” Jones says. “It’s going to be very important to you because if disaster assistance does become available and there are grants, there are going to be insurance ramifications with that, and if you’re going to be using the banks and getting loans, there are going to be insurance ramifications with that, and if you don’t build right, your flood insurance premiums are going to be very prohibitive.”

Stanton County Sheriff Mike Unger says several state agencies are available to help with everything from insurance claims to hiring a reputable contractor.

Sheriff Unger says, “Representatives from the Nebraska Department of Labor are planning on sending teams of investigators to provide residents with information concerning the hiring of contractors, who to hire and what to watch out for.”

He says to get everything in writing first, never pay cash upfront and to always check a contractor’s references, including using the Better Business Bureau website or 800-number.

By Susan Risinger, WJAG, Norfolk


Annual celebration will go on in July in tornado-ravaged Pilger

While the northeast Nebraska town of Pilger strives to rebuild after a strike by twin tornadoes earlier this month, residents now have a local celebration to look forward to.

During a weekend community meeting, Stanton County Sheriff Mike Unger announced that the annual festival -will- take place, as always, on the third full weekend in July.

“Pilger Fire and Rescue met and have voted to have their annual Pilger Days barbeque and street dance,” Sheriff Unger says. “It will just be relocated to the ballpark area.” The announcement drew cheers and applause.

Unger covered a wide range of topics for Pilger residents, including security, trash service and controlling social media rumors.

Several state representatives were also on hand with information, including Bill Imler with the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency. He says the process of getting state and federal assistance will take some time but the assessment process got underway late last week by staff from NEMA, FEMA and the SBA.

“They were doing assessments of the damages to individual homes and business properties in the affected areas up here,” Imler says. “There was about five counties we were working with. Starting on Tuesday morning, myself and others will be up, doing assessments on public infrastructure.”

Sheriff Unger told the crowd he had spoken with the family of tornado victim Cali Dixon. Her funeral was held Saturday in Stanton. The family wished to thank everyone for their help and prayers. Unger reported that the last word on Cali’s mother, 42-year-old Kandi Murphree, was that she remained in an Omaha hospital, but her condition had been upgraded to stable.

By Susan Risinger, WJAG, Norfolk


Progress is slow & steady in tornado-tossed Pilger

Downtown PilgerThe Stanton County Sheriff’s Department has been pulling extra duty since tornadoes ripped across the county in northeast Nebraska last Monday, wiping out much of the town of Pilger. Sheriff Mike Unger says his staff is continuing to do well, despite the lack of sleep.

“We’re holding up, we’re going to get through this,” Sheriff Unger says. “We’re going to continue our extended shifts. We are providing 24-hour visible coverage in Pilger for the foreseeable future. It’s just something that you don’t expect but when you take the oath, you sign up for it all, no matter what comes at you.”

Unger says volunteers continue to be needed in all of the tornado-damaged areas of Stanton, Cuming, Wayne, Dixon and Cedar counties. Volunteers have been starting work in Pilger at 7 AM daily and the sheriff says they’ll continue to need volunteers there for a long time.

Unger says, “We’re going to have a lot of walk-in help need after we get some of these additional building down as well as some of the utter devastation and debris cleared away.”

Volunteers can now report directly to Pilger instead of going to Wisner first. They’re all asked to sign in as Unger says keeping track of volunteer numbers and hours will help in obtaining assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

 By Susan Risinger, WJAG, Norfolk


Climatologist sees severe weather giving way to mild (AUDIO)

Severe storms have caused widespread damage in northeastern Nebraska, but the remainder of the summer looks mild to a state climatologist.

State Climatologist Ken Dewey with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln says June could well set a state record for tornadoes.

“June 16, the day of the Pilger tornado, we had 15 tornado reports. June 17, we had 23 tornado reports and there were tornadoes again up in that same area,” Dewey tells Jack and Dave in the Morning on Nebraska Radio Network affiliate KLIN.

In all, 63 tornado reports have been made in June. Dewey says some of those might be duplicates. Still, he expects the final tally to break the record of 48 tornadoes in June in Nebraska.

As for why the northeastern region of Nebraska has been hit so hard this month, Dewey calls it the bad luck of the draw when all the conditions necessary for tornadoes come together in one area.

It has happened before.

Dewey recalls the fearsome tornado that struck Hallam in 2004. Dewey says volunteers helping with recovery twice had to seek shelter, because tornadoes returned to threaten the town. He says severe weather patterns sometime get stuck.

Dewey says the computer models predict mild weather ahead with plenty of rain.

“Although we could have a prolonged period of four or five days, maybe up to a week of heat and no rain and it will seem like we’re going to go into drought, there is absolutely no indication in any of the computer models at this time that we’re going to go into a prolonged period, meaning more than a week, without precipitation.”

There is also no indication of excessive heat, according to Dewey.

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [:50]