Area farmers hoping for rain and cooler temperatures may not get much relief this week.
“The heat is definitely the big story as we start the week,” said Chelly Amin, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Huntsville. “It will be pretty hot and dry this week, especially for those areas that don’t receive isolated showers and storms.”
Showers or storms will be “hit or miss” through at least next Tuesday, with sunny skies expected Thursday and Friday, she said.
“We’re looking at a 20% chance in the morning (today) for showers and storms and 40% in the afternoon,” Amin said, and there’s a 30% chance of showers and thunderstorms in the Decatur area on Wednesday.
The dry conditions aren’t unusual for this time of year, according to Amin.
“September is, climatologically, the driest month of the year,” she said.
The temperature reached 97 degrees in Decatur on Monday, according to the weather service office.
Amin said the heat will continue, with the high temperature for today in the Decatur area reaching 94 to 95 degrees and a heat index value of 101 to 102 degrees.
Temperatures will be in the 90s through the week, and there will be a high near 90 degrees on Sunday, according to Amin.
The conditions are having an impact on Robert and Marilyn Champion, who grow a mix of produce at their Champion Farms in Falkville.
“Right now, we’re needing rain,” said Marilyn Champion, who had yellow squash, tomatoes and zucchini for sale Monday at the Morgan County-Decatur Farmers Market. She sets up four days a week there and also travels to two markets in Huntsville.
“We’ve planted turnip greens twice already and (the crops) burned up,” she said. “If we don’t get any rain soon, it’ll burn up again.”
Even though the tomato crop is irrigated, the heat is causing some of the tomatoes to blister and crack.
The Champions, who have been growing produce for the last 25 years, recently planted a late patch of zucchini, yellow squash and cucumbers.
“We’re getting ready to plant strawberries in a few weeks,” she said. “I’m hoping we get some relief.”
Jessie Hobbs, who farms with his father, Howard Hobbs, in Limestone County and Giles County, Tennessee, won’t know for certain how the family’s 1,000 acres of soybeans have been affected until he gets out and walks the fields.
“I’m almost too scared to, to tell you the truth,” Hobbs said. “The extreme heat is not good, especially with no rain for weeks.”
Hobbs expects to start harvesting the soybeans soon, probably the last week of September, “for better or worse.”
The ground is so dry that Hobbs can’t plant cover crops, which help prevent erosion, among other benefits.
“I do think I’ll have a decent cotton crop,” said Hobbs, whose farm has 1,200 acres planted in cotton. “Cotton likes hot and dry conditions. I would like to have some more moisture for the cotton that was planted later,” around the first of June.
“On average, I’ve been satisfied with the corn crop,” he said.
The heat and dryness has actually helped “dry down” the corn enough so it can be delivered straight to a processor to be processed for chicken feed, he said.
The wide variations in rainfall amounts across the family’s farm have been unusual.
Some areas of the farm have received as much as 50 inches of rain so far this year, while other spots have had 19 to 20 inches of rain, Hobbs said.
“With Mother Nature, you don’t ever know what’s coming your way,” he said.