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Midwest gets drought relief at last -- thanks to Isaac

September 06, 2012|By Michael Muskal
  • Farmer Chris Wise stands in one of his fields just south of Champaign, Ill., holding an ear of corn hurt by weeks of drought. Wise was scrambling Friday to harvest ahead of the heavy rain expected from the remnants of Hurricane Isaac.
Farmer Chris Wise stands in one of his fields just south of Champaign, Ill.,… (David Mercer / Associated…)

The soggy breakup of Hurricane Isaac brought some relief to parts of the drought-plagued Midwest, but other agricultural areas continue to bear the pain of a worsening climate.

The weekly U.S. Drought Monitor map released Thursday showed that the hardest-hit drought areas of the continental United States decreased slightly to 21.45%, down by 1.7 percentage points. Parts of Missouri, Illinois and Indiana got some relief because of rain associated with Isaac, a slow-moving storm that hit the Louisiana coast on Aug. 28 as a Category 1 hurricane and wended its wet way across parts of the South and Midwest.

The rain came after many crops had already been harvested, but it may yet manage to improve the soybean yield. However, the rain bypassed the key corn-producing states of Nebraska and Iowa, both hard hit by drought conditions that have brought some increases in consumer prices.

PHOTOS: Severe U.S. drought

Isaac was a slow-moving, especially wet storm that brought flooding to Louisiana and other parts of the region. Because the storm lingered, it dropped more than 10 inches of precipitation in some areas, improving the drought status in parts of Louisiana and Arkansas, according to the monitor.

The storm, downgraded from hurricane status as it moved inland, also dropped two to six inches of rainfall in many areas of Missouri, Illinois and Indiana, according to the drought survey. That resulted in improvements of at least one drought category for many areas, including parts of Ohio and Indiana, and in some cases as much as two categories of improvement.

”The improvements were based upon how well soil moisture levels responded throughout the area that received the most rain and also the favorable response of the river and streamflows, which were running at near record lows,” the weekly report noted.

Missouri, for example, saw the areas of exceptional drought fall from 35% to 3%; In Illinois, the two worst classifications of drought fell from about 70% to about 7%. None of Indiana was in exceptional or extreme drought, though 39% was classified that way before Isaac’s remnants hit.

But the Plains states were less fortunate, missing the rain and having a return in some areas of the 100-degree temperatures that have scorched the region through much of the summer.

Nebraska reported that 71% of the state was in the higher drought classifications. In Iowa, the area in exceptional or extreme drought rose to 62%, up four percentage points.


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