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Storms passing through Friday evening kicked off what forecasters expect to be a wet Memorial Day weekend in Arkansas, adding to the difficulties of farmers who are still trying to get crops in the ground.

National Weather Service officials have rain in the forecast every day through at least Tuesday for most of the state.

Central and Northwest Arkansas have about a 20-40% chance of thunderstorms today and Sunday, with chances increasing to around 70% Monday. Much of southern Arkansas has a chance of thunderstorms every day this weekend as well.

A system moved into the state in midmorning and early afternoon Friday, bringing severe thunderstorm warnings to Northwest Arkansas. Those storms came on the heels of another system that moved across Arkansas overnight Thursday.

Thunderstorms produced by that system weren't considered severe when they moved into the Little Rock area, but officials said they believe lightning may have caused fires that occurred at 1520 Marshall Street, 3003 Arch Street and 12 Marchwood Cove.

Little Rock fire Capt. Doug Coffman said fire marshals hadn't determined the cause of the blazes but said lightning hadn't been ruled out as a factor.

Wet weather is nothing new for the Natural State, which has seen above-average rainfall totals this year.

Little Rock's rainfall total is about 7.5 inches above average for this time of year, according to Chris Buonanno, science and operations officer with the National Weather Service in North Little Rock. This time last year, Little Rock was 8.77 inches above average.

Harrison is 7.82 inches above average this year and Pine Bluff is 6.57 inches above, Buonanno said. Newport is 6.91 inches above average.

All the rain has made for a difficult planting season for Arkansas farmers.

Clay County farmer Terry Pollard said that while there hasn't been widespread flooding like last year, the continual rain and cool weather have prevented the soil from drying. That has made for a worse planting season compared with last year.

Pollard said about half his cotton crop has been planted, and his planting of corn and rice also has lagged. He prefers to have his crops planted by May 5 or May 10, he said, but this year he may not be finished by May 25.

"It's no doubt been a cold and wet spring. One of the wettest I've ever seen, I do believe," Pollard said. "This is my 44th crop, and I don't know, it's been very discouraging."

Brandy Carroll, director of commodity activities and market information for the Arkansas Farm Bureau, said overall the state is well behind on planting because of the weather.

She said on average over the past five years, 88% of Arkansas' rice crop would have been planted by now, but only 63% has been planted this year. Last year, 76% had been planted by this point.

On average 71% of cotton would have been planted by now, but only 47% has been planted so far this year, Carroll said. Last year, 43% had been planted at this point.

Pollard said he is hoping for drier weather soon, but Buonanno said the wet weather likely isn't going anywhere. He said national forecasters expect the summer months of June, July and August to see above-average rainfall as well.

Pollard remains hopeful.

"Farmers always got hope the next day is going to be better," Pollard said. "I've been doing it my whole life. Surely it will warm up and start getting better one of these days."

Metro on 05/23/2020

Print Headline: Rain likely over holiday weekend

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