By DEBRA J. GROOM
From EMPIRE FARM & DAIRY magazine
The wet weather of this growing season hasn’t been tough only on those with crops in the ground and hay to bale.
Some of God’s living creatures also have been put through the wringer with all this rain.
At Engelbert Farms in Nichols, Tioga County, the rain from July 24 nearly drowned their 20 calves. The little ones were snug and warm and safe in their calf hutches when the Wappasening Creek began to overflow.
“We got a call at 2:15 a.m. that it looked like our calves were drowning,” Lisa Engelbert said via Facebook. “We called our sons, and headed down. When I got down there, my heart sank — I thought we had lost all of the calves in hutches. I shined my spotlight out and saw that they were alive, but some were struggling to keep their heads above water.”
Engelbert said while her farm received only about 2.5 inches of rain, upstream the Wappasening Creek watershed saw about 6 inches of rain in a very short period of time.
“My son, John arrived and he started unhooking calves and putting them into the back of his truck. I was in the truck trying to keep them towards the front of the truck bed,” Engelbert said. “Kevin hooked up the cattle trailer and we started putting calves in there. Several of the guys who work on the farm arrived soon after, but it took our son, Joe, about 45 minutes to get here because so many roads and bridges were washed out.”
“The calves were all rescued and taken to Rob Moore’s organic farm up on the hill. The guys loaded 15 organic piglets as a precaution and took them to Kittle’s organic farm on the hill,” she said. “We lost three calves to pneumonia due to getting water in their lungs, but the rest are doing well. The pigs and calves came back home the next day.”
The flash flooding was from the Wappasening Creek and was an isolated rain event, “so we didn’t have flooding issues from the Susquehanna River,” Engelbert said.
Farms like Engelbert Farms in this area of the Southern Tier have seen the mighty Susquehanna flood numerous times, wreaking havoc on the land. The most recent was Sept. 7, 2011, when Tropical Storm Lee dropped about 18 inches of rain near Nichols.
Meteorologists at that time said the river rose to 26.67 feet in the nearby town of Waverly.
“It came through like a Tsunami,” said Engelbert in a story in Lancaster Farming. During that flood, nearly 400 acres of land, a milkhouse, milking parlor, the house and crop fields were filled with water and mud from the Wappasening Creek and Susquehanna River.