by Pettus Read
If you were anywhere near Middle or West Tennessee in the last several days, you have been well schooled in the term "flood plain" and probably experienced the results of what can happen if you are in one when rain falls at a rate more than the average for a given period of time. The Nashville area saw not only a 100-year flood event, but also a 500- and maybe even a 1000-year event that put the Cumberland River on the stage of the historic Grand Ole Opry and in the best seats of LP Field. Saturday and Sunday of May 1 and 2 were a rain event the area will long remember with up to 15 inches of rain falling in one day.
The first weekend in May of 2010 is one that has made Tennessee history and is a weekend that continues to add to the state's troubles as the waters recede. In Nashville alone, more than one billion dollars in damage is estimated as being created by the floodwaters and at the time of this writing, West Tennessee was still having flooding in Dyer County.
Even as the water continued to rise on people's property, many found time to help others in need. I was really proud of our citizens in the Volunteer State. They came to the aid even when many themselves were in trouble. Some shelters remained empty at times due to folks opening their homes to help others. I guess we can still be called the Volunteer State.
We have seen homes, businesses, hotels and even sporting venues damaged by the floods, but we should also be reminded that millions of dollars of Tennessee's farmers' crops were also destroyed in the weekend storms. Thousands of acres of corn were covered with floodwaters that will either have to be replanted or just replaced with another crop to meet the needs for this year's growing season. Some crops did have crop insurance coverage, but the return will only be a fraction of the cost of what it will actually cost the farmer to replant or recover from his loss.
The federal government authorized a major disaster declaration for several Tennessee counties after Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen asked President Obama to declare the counties federal disaster areas following the severe storms, tornadoes and flooding that struck the state. However, the FEMA assistance does not help the agricultural loss of crops, fences, barns, cattle and other needs that farmers have experienced. USDA will be doing a loss evaluation over the next several days and hopes are that help will be coming in some way from those government agencies. There are also other discussions being made about help coming from the private sector as well.
As the rain fell last Sunday and folks kept comparing the storm to Noah's dilemma, as we all often do during big rains, it reminded me of a writing a farmer gave me several years ago down in West Tennessee called the Noah Plan. I don't know the author, but it is some good advice that works pretty well for our current situation. Here's the plan:
1. Always plan ahead. It wasn't raining when Noah built the Ark.
2. Don't listen to critics. Do what has to be done, even if it means finding gopher wood when supplies are low.
3. Remember to build on high ground.
4. For safety's sake travel in pairs.
5. Two heads are better than one.
6. Speed isn't always an advantage and haste makes waste. The cheetahs were on board, but so were the snails.
7. If you can't fight or flee - at least float!
8. Take good care of your animals as if they were the last ones on earth.
9. Don't ever forget that we're all in the same boat.
10. When the manure gets really deep, don't sit there and complain, get busy and shovel!
11. Always remember that amateurs built the Ark and professionals built the Titanic.
12. If you have to start over, have a friend by your side.
13. Remember that the peckerwoods inside are often a bigger threat than the storm outside.
14. Above all, don't miss the boat!
15. No matter how bleak it looks, there is always a rainbow on the other side.
16. Last, but surely not least, stop what your doing, and do what God says!
The Noah Plan may be what we should have been looking at all along. It sure wouldn't hurt to try it, especially when the storm clouds are forming over the agricultural community.