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Maritime farmers face floods, harvest frustration


September 8, 2008
By The Canadian Press

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September 7, 2008, Halifax, N.S. –
Maritime farmers were fearful of yet more flooding and further delays
in taking in an already rain-soaked crop as tropical storm Hanna raced
up the east coast towards their fields.

September 7, 2008, Halifax, N.S. – Maritime farmers were fearful of yet more flooding and further delays in taking in an already rain-soaked crop as tropical storm Hanna raced up the east coast towards their fields.

By Saturday evening, a band of heavy showers moving ahead of the storm was adding up to 30 millimetres of rain to the drenched region, which is already saturated from a summer of heavy rain.

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In Shubenacadie, N.S., Willie Versteeg, president of the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture, was looking out in frustration at what could be a rich crop.

He says the damp ground makes it impossible to operate machinery on his land without damaging the field.

“We haven’t turned a (tractor) wheel in three weeks. We have a lot of forage still out in the field waiting to be cut and harvested and brought in for winter feed supply,” said the farmer.

“We’re more than a little bit worried at this stage of the game. We just don’t have enough feed for winter storage.''

Predictions of gusts up to 70 kilometres per hour for his area, along with heavy rainfall on Sunday morning will only make the situation worse, he added.

Fields of ripe corn may be mowed down by the gusts if they score a direct hit, he said.

“Hopefully the corn will be still standing at the end of it,” said Versteeg.

The storm, which left 137 people dead in Haiti, came ashore Saturday near the boundary between North and South Carolina and was losing steam as it began churning toward New England.

But the Canadian Hurricane Centre in Dartmouth, N.S., said “very wet remnants” of the storm are expected to pour on the Maritimes on Sunday.

Prince Edward Island, northern Nova Scotia and southern New Brunswick will be hit the hardest, with between 60 and 80 millimetres of rain predicted.

“With Hanna, there’s quite likely going to be some local, heavier amounts,” said meteorologist Mike Campbell.

“We’re even talking about possible local amounts…up to 100 millimetres.”

Campbell said rain associated with Hanna would mostly be “an inconvenience” to residents in southern New Brunswick and western P.E.I., while it could cause major headaches for other regions in the Maritimes.

“The big concern would be places like eastern P.E.I., and up into Cape Breton (because) the ground is fairly saturated; they've had about two to three times the normal rainfall for August,” he said.

“This additional amount could cause a fair bit of overflowing on road systems and so forth.”

Earlier this week, Joe King, a farmer in Cape Breton, stood knee deep in some of his flooded fields.

King, the manager of Eyking Brothers produce, located near Sydney, N.S., said some of his fields, “look more like lakes.”

He told the Cape Breton Post that he’s already lost field crops, as water lifted the young plants out of the soil.

Versteeg said farmers across the Maritimes are becoming increasingly frustrated by the continuing rain as they’ve faced higher fertilizer, fuel and pesticide costs this year.

If crops are ruined, it could be devastating for the industry, he said.

“Time is getting short…We’re into September and there’s a lot of work yet to be done.”

“Things have to turn around…We need a very prolonged period of good, sunny, breezy weather to make the ground fit enough to get the crops in.”

Transportation Department officials in Nova Scotia are still surveying the damage after several roads were washed out by flash floods last weekend.

During that storm, heavy rains flooded ditches and culverts in Pictou County, while rising waters in New Glasgow overwhelmed the town’s sewer system and flooded the basements of several downtown businesses.

Prince Edward Island, meanwhile, officially recorded its wettest month ever in August, after a total of 238.8 millimetres of rain fell on the province.

Normal rainfall for August is about 87 millimetres.

Campbell said rain on Sunday could fall for about six consecutive hours, making driving treacherous, especially along busy highways or areas that are known to flood.

“It’s a matter of avoiding travel more than anything else, especially areas that are prone to being waterlogged,” he said.

Hanna is expected to move out of the Maritimes on Sunday night before arriving in southeastern Newfoundland in a weakened state.

There were also weather warnings issued for Newfoundland, with heavy rains expected to hit the southwestern coast by Sunday morning.

Meanwhile, forecasters were keeping a close eye on hurricane Ike.

The powerful storm was downgraded Saturday to a Category 2 storm, but it was expected to intensify again as it approaches Cuba and southern Florida by Monday.

Campbell said it was unlikely that Ike would impact the Maritimes.

“It will definitely will be an American issue, but it’s not going to affect Canadian territory at all,” he said.