September 1, 2005 | By: Aimee Nielson

Hurricane Katrina tore through several Gulf Coast states, leaving a path of destruction that may end up being the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history. As remnants of the storm drifted northeast, much needed rain fell over a large portion of Kentucky, however, it may have come a little too late for some farmers.

“The bluegrass climate zone has been in severe drought for several weeks, and west and central zones have been in moderate drought,” said Tom Priddy, University of Kentucky College of Agriculture meteorologist. “It’s sad that our drought relief has to come from a storm that has caused such pain for our southern neighbors. For the most part, the recent rainfall has improved conditions in Kentucky, and while it’s true we needed many inches of rain to pull us out of the drought, some areas got it too quickly.”

In western areas of the state, some communities saw as much as 11 inches of rain over several days, including some that fell before Katrina hit the area. In Hopkinsville, high water closed several roads and businesses after 6 inches fell in a few short hours.

“We didn’t’ get nearly as much precipitation from Katrina in the bluegrass zone as I thought we would,” Priddy said. “But it’s still enough to make a big difference, and it could possibly pull us out of the severe drought category, through the moderate drought category and into mild drought, which is easier to deal with.”

Although it came too late to help the state’s corn crop, UK Forage Specialist Ray Smith said the recent rain could improve pasture prospects for the fall.

“This is good across the board except where there is standing water,” he said. “Standing water can cause stand losses in sensitive forage crops like alfalfa. But overall, it’s purely a help and will fuel good pasture growth.”

Smith said farmers might have a good hay cutting at the end of September depending, of course, on future weather conditions.

“It came about as late as it could to help forage producers,” Smith emphasized. “Farmers who had put nitrogen on for stockpiling fall forages should see a real benefit.”

Priddy was cautiously optimistic about Katrina’s effect on Kentucky.

“I keep telling everyone to remember Dennis,” he said. “Dennis helped alleviate drought conditions for a while, but three weeks later we were right back into drought and, in some areas, deep into severe drought. We’ll just have to wait and see.”

For more information about current weather conditions in Kentucky and surrounding states visit the UK College of Agriculture Weather Center at



Writer: Aimee Nielson 859-257-4736, ext. 267

Contact: Tom Priddy 859-257-3000, ext. 245
Ray Smith 859-257-3358