Rain helps, but drought far from over

Friday, July 9, 2004

"Rain, rain come any day. It's been wet and we like it that way."


Admittedly, the above is a poor attempt at lyric writing, but at least the ditty expresses the overwhelming desire in the Tri-State Region for a continuance of the soaking rains which have fallen in the first part of July.

According to both the National Weather Service and the Nebraska Rainfall Assessment and Information Network -- R.A.I.N. -- McCook received more precipitation in the first eight days of July than it normally gets in the entire month.

The long-term average precipitation total for July in McCook is 3.25 inches, but for the month to date in 2004 (up to Friday, July 9) the Weather Service has already measured 3.38 inches at the McCook Municipal Airport and the Nebraska RAIN reporting station at the Red Willow County Extension Office has recorded 3.94 inches.

From here on out, all the rain we get is further help in easing the dry conditions. Because -- as welcome as the recent rains have been -- we're going to need a lot more moisture to break the drought.

"We've made progress," said Dave Floyd, a meteorologist who serves as the warning coordinator at the National Weather Service station in Goodland. "Before the rains started coming, this area was classified as being in an 'Extreme Drought.' We're now classified as being in a 'Severe Drought,'" indicating that this area is doing a little better, but still has a long way to go to escape the clutches of the nearly bone-dry conditions.

Before making it fully back to normal, the Tri-State Region of Northwest Kansas, Southwest Nebraska and Eastern Colorado will have to pass through two other levels of dry conditions, which the Weather Service refers to as "Moderate Drought" and "Abnormally Dry."

Still, the recent rainfall has been greatly beneficial. "The rains have been wonderful," said Kent Been, the extension agent for Red Willow County. "They have helped the corn and milo considerably." It's too early to put an exact assessment on the added yields, but Bill Ellis, manager of Farmer's Coop Grain & Supply of Trenton, says the moisture boost, area-wide, could amount to millions of bushels in added production.

Also, on drives through the countryside, County Agent Been says it is apparent that the pastures are greening up, giving a slightly better outlook for grazing land for cattle.

What's the next few weeks hold? According to the National Weather Service's Climate Prediction Branch, the moisture outlook, through September, "is a little more favorable'" than normal.

Maybe the rains we've had and the ones to come won't bust the drought, but at least we are doing better than the parched dry days of the past few years.

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