04/16/07 — Snow in N.C.? In April?

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Snow in N.C.? In April?

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on April 16, 2007 2:07 PM

A spring storm over the weekend brought flood warnings, snow and even hail to parts of the state. But local farmers are calling it a blessing.

"We needed the rain, there's no doubt," Cooperative Extension crop agent Kevin Johnson said. "It had been weeks since we have had a significant rain. The ground was real dry."

Everybody needed the rain, Johnson said. In addition to the crops, the moisture helped yards, bushes and trees, as well as the lakes and reserves.

Officials at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base reported 7.56 inches of rain accumulation from Sunday's storm, which also produced 42 mph winds.

The week ahead is when most of the area corn crops were to be planted, Johnson said, while tobacco is to be transplanted. For the latter, especially, he said the timing was good.

"The soil moisture was really low," he said. "We really needed some rain so that we could put it in the field."

Brad West of Fremont, who farms in Fremont, said the weather was wonderful for his corn crop.

"It was really a blessing. It had gotten to be dry. It's helped us," he said this morning.

West said he anticipated setting tobacco Tuesday or Wednesday, "so it's perfect for that. It probably benefited more than hindered."

Farmer Charlie McClenny of the Smith Chapel area of Mount Olive said he had almost finished planting corn. The cold winds, however, prompted him to delay transplanting tobacco for a few days.

Soybeans and cotton planting has not begun, McClenny said, but the wheat crop is another matter. Last week's cold snap came at a critical stage.

"It looks like it's going to do right much damage to the wheat crop," he said.

Johnson said some of the wheat crop may have been lost, but since it requires a lot of moisture, could have been helped by the rain.

In West's case, he viewed the weekend weather as a positive for his wheat crop.

"It probably definitely helped it. It's really started to head out. It needs moisture and rain," he said.

Like many farmers living off the land and dependent upon nature, McClenny recalls the words of his forefathers.

"They say a bad start makes a good finish, so we're hoping for that," he said. "There's no two years alike in farming. It's a weather game is what it is."

And the weekend of blustery weather is likely to continue across the state this week.

Wind advisories went into effect this morning across most of the state, with forecasters warning of strong winds from the mountains to the coastal plains.

Wind gusts could reach 50 mph with sustained winds expected between 25 mph and 35 mph, according to the National Weather Service. High wind warnings were in effect in the western Piedmont and mountains through Tuesday, while wind advisories were posted for the eastern Piedmont, sandhills and coastal plains through late tonight.

Snow fell in the mountains Sunday and heavy rains from a spring storm drenched much of the state, as flood warnings were issued for several counties in central North Carolina.

The nor'easter that battered the East brought a freeze warning through Monday morning for the mountains, where strong wind gusts were expected and up to a few inches of snow were to accumulate at higher elevations.

The storm also stranded travelers at Raleigh-Durham International Airport, forcing some to sleep in an airport terminal overnight.

A tornado watch issued for much of the central portion of the state expired late Sunday, but not before reports of a funnel cloud in Alexander County.

"We did see rotation on the radar," said Scott Krentz, meteorologist with the weather service in Greer, S.C. "We haven't had any reports of any damage."

Witnesses also reported seeing a funnel cloud in Catawba County that moved into Iredell and Alexander counties. No injuries were reported.

Several thousand utility customers were without power late Sunday in the western portion of the state after high winds knocked down power lines.

Wind gusts up to 70 mph toppled trees across the region and thunderstorm warnings were issued for central and eastern portions of the state. Several inches of rain fell from the coast to the Piedmont and flood warnings were issued late Sunday for several counties in central North Carolina through early this morning.

The National Weather Service reported hail the size of golf balls fell in Davidson County.

The state Highway Patrol reported several weather-related accidents, including one on Interstate 40 in Wake County that involved injuries.