I used to travel U.S. Highway 82 regularly when I worked at the Tifton Gazette — now a long time ago. Then, the traditional South Georgia crops: King Cotton and Prince Peanuts dominated the landscape along the popular highway that connects most of the country to I-75 and routes to the Florida beaches and entertainment centers.
Now, the popular corridor looks a little like traveling through Iowa — well in one small way. The corn crop looks outstanding this year — much of it under irrigation. Often the way a corn crop looks in early July has little relationship to how it turns out in the combine.
Plenty of things could happen between now and harvest time, but all things being equal, I’ll take tall, green corn in early July any day over the drought conditions we’ve had in the region in most recent years.
I was traveling U.S. Highway 82 as part of a return trip from Port Canaveral and a family vacation on the High Seas. In addition to seeing the changes in the agricultural landscape in that part of the country, I got an up close and very personal glimpse at another all-too-frequently occurring event in the Southeast in the spring and summer — a tornado.
Watching dark clouds is one thing, driving through torrential rainfall and mid-afternoon darkness is another matter. When you see clouds going in circles and dust and leaves and tree branches moving round and round with them, well then it’s time to get ‘gas happy’ and get as far away as possible.
I learned later the tornado we saw touched down, though I’m not sure whether it was ever determined it was a tornado or straight line winds, touched down and caused some damage near Bronwyn, Ga. I can verify, if the U.S. Weather Service needs the information, that the clouds were going round and round and not straight.
As I sped away from the storm, I couldn’t help but think what it would do to the lush green corn fields in its path. I’m glad the storm was small (reported as an E1 tornado). I think cotton or peanuts would fare better with a tornado and high winds. Then again, I remember what winds from Hurricane Frederick did to a cotton field in south Baldwin County, Ala., several years back.
All in all, I’m glad farmers, not Mother Nature, are the primary determining vote as to what does and doesn’t get planted in the red fields near Dawson, Ga. on U.S. Highway 82.