Midwest Growers Have Mixed Reactions to Recent Weather

June 3, 2004 - 13:51

The recent weather conditions in the Midwest have affected many growers in the industry. Tornadoes, severe storms and flooding have affected sales across the Midwest in several different ways.

Over Memorial Day weekend, a large storm system prompted 1,000 severe-weather reports across 27 states, according to the National Weather Service. Across the Midwest, severe weather spawned nearly 200 tornadoes. Heavy rains have caused flooding in the Midwest, with rivers in 13 states above flood stage.

Bergmann's Greenhouses in Clayton, Wis., has not encountered any shipping delays, but product installation has been a problem because of the cool and wet weather conditions. "We have had very slow sales with our bedding plants," one source said of the family-run business. "Merchandise is selling very well, but sale amounts have been drastically down at this time of year."

The heavy rain in Indiana has affected planting at many greenhouses. "The rain has slowed down getting our mums ready," said Richard Own of Clark's Greenhouses in Connersville, Ind. "Rainy weather has stopped us from filling our pots with soil and getting them out."

Karol Martindale of County Line Flowers and Greenhouse in Farmersburg, Ind., commented, "We were getting warm day temperatures, but at night it was cold, not allowing the water to stay warm. We always have water lilies blooming by Mother's Day, but they just started to bloom within the last week."

Indiana weather has also affected consumer sales. "You could definitely see what weather does to you," said Martindale. "There are days when the customers are very few and far between simply because it's been raining so much."

Illinois made national headlines when Chicago was hit with its third-wettest May in 100 years of recorded history. High waters forced the evacuation of several homes, the closing of roads, schools and businesses, and city power outages. Des Plaines River had its worst flood since 1986.

"We have had 8-10 inches of rain from the first of May (until May 25) over the upper portion of the Des Plaines River," said Bill Morris, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service in the Lake Forester. "That is three times the normal rainfall."

However, even with the horrible weather conditions in Illinois, greenhouse growers seem to be doing well. "The weather has not affected them as adversely as you may think," said Dave Bender of the Illinois Nurserymen's Association. "If has not affected sales whatsoever. In fact, I think sales have been very high. There have been a couple of bad weekends, where it's just rained all weekend, but they [Illinois growers] are reporting really strong sales during those weeks."

Precipitation in Ohio as of May 24 was averaging 2.37 inches, 1.51 inches above normal, according to the National Weather Service. During the last week of May, many counties were hit hard with severe thunderstorms, with Medina County reporting the highest amount of rainfall in Ohio at five inches.

Gary Neil of Moore's Greenhouses in Shreve, Ohio, noticed sales decreasing drastically because of the unusually heavy rainfall. "When it was too wet, people just couldn't get in. We also haven't been shipping out as much," Neil said. "The only things that moved out well were the pansies and violas, and they did because it stayed cooler and wetter longer, and we could put them in baskets. Overall, sales have definitely been down."

According to the National Weather Service, it was the wettest May for Lansing and southeastern Michigan since the government began keeping records in 1850. According to the Associated Press, around St. Louis, Mo., the rainfall has totaled 6.33 inches, 2.87 inches above normal, making it the wettest May Missouri has seen in nine years.

Curtis Stillwell of Grass Pad Warehouse in Olathe, Kan., summed it up best when he said, "Any time you get rain in May, it affects business. You like to see it busy every day, but when it's raining, you're not selling anything."

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