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Great Lakes Article:

Area Drifting Into Drought
By Maggie Borman
The Telegraph (
Published June 13, 2005


Even with recent rains, the area is in drought mode.

The U.S. Drought Monitor indicates that much of Central Illinois is classified as being in a moderate drought, generally extending from near St. Louis to northeast of Kankakee, while East-Central and Southeast Illinois are classified as being abnormally dry.

Although last week’s scattered thundershowers brought little relief to farmers who have begun to see the green leaves on the emerging corn crop start to curl, Illinois State Climatologist Jim Angel said Friday that there is some hope for farmers and specialty crop producers.

"The good news is that there is a chance for thunderstorms for the next several days, so we may see some relief from the dry weather. Some timely rains would really help out the crops right now," Angel said.

The other good news, Angel said, is that while the soil is dry at the surface (the top 6 to 12 inches), it is in better shape in the lower levels, thanks to the wet winter.

"Still, it will probably take a month of above-normal rainfall to get us out of the current situation," Angel said.

Historically, dry springs lead to summers that are drier and warmer than normal, Angel said, noting that Illinois has had one of the driest springs since records have been kept. Precipitation statewide in May averaged only 1.86 inches, 44 percent of normal, ranking May as the sixth-driest since 1895. Precipitation in March also was low at 6.02 inches, 53 percent of normal, making it the fourth-driest spring on record after 1934, 1895 and 1936.

The National Weather Service outlook for this summer is neutral on precipitation, meaning no increased chance for dry weather, Angel said. But he noted the NWS also lists The Telegraph coverage area as having a slightly increased chance of warmer-than-normal temperatures.

"Temperatures have gotten considerably warmer this week, adding to the stress on the crops and further drying out the soils," Angel said Friday. "Last year was so mild that White Hall only reported two days above 90 degrees for the whole summer. This year, they have already had three days above 90 degrees, and that doesn’t include (Friday)."

The Weather Service’s outlook for meteorological summer -- June through August -- is similar to its outlook for June: equal chances of above-normal, normal or below-normal temperatures and precipitation, Angel said, but with a slightly increased chance of above-normal temperatures in the southern half of the state.

"I had hoped the recent rains would have been more widespread, but most places in The Telegraph coverage area, and elsewhere in the state, got less than an inch of rain," Angel said.

The U.S. Drought Monitor’s National Drought Summary last Tuesday said the recent dryness is also beginning to have an effect on the water levels within the Great Lakes. As of the beginning of June, Lake Superior was 3 inches below its long-term average, while Lakes Michigan and Huron were 13 inches below the long-term average.

Highlighting the recent dryness across southern Michigan, western Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, western Kentucky and southern Missouri, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported Tuesday that topsoil moisture values were 55 percent, 15 percent, 26 percent, 74 percent, 34 percent and 56 percent short to very short, respectively.

"In The Telegraph coverage area, for example, White Hall has reported only 0.30 inches of rain in June. The Alton Dam has reported 0.62 inches for the month so far. Normal June rainfall is 3.17 inches," Angel said. "That means you would have to get about three-quarters of an inch of rain per week just to stay where you are."

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