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On the way to RECOVERY

June was the third wettest month on record. Harry Hillaker said Iowa’s drought conditions have greatly improved

Published: Wednesday, July 2, 2014 11:48 a.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, July 2, 2014 12:01 p.m. CDT
The areas in white are free of drought, areas in yellow are in slight drought and areas in tan are in moderate drought.

The severe weather the second half of June has left a sour memory for those hit hardest by the heavy rain, large hail and strong winds that recently was confirmed as an EF 1 tornado in Adair County.

But the rainfall has helped Iowa recover from an extended dry spell and returned much needed moisture to the subsoil.

“I would say we are on the way to recovery, if not completely recovered in some areas,” said Wayde Ross, district conservationist for National Resource Conservation Service (NRCS). “In this part of Iowa, we were already moving toward less drought conditions this spring.”

This June is the third wettest on record according to data at the National Weather Service retrieved by state climatologist Harry Hillaker. It could have bumped into second, but the readings occur at 7 a.m., so all the rain on June 30 carries over into July.

“June averaged 9.61 inches of rain across the state,” Hillaker said. “The normal for the month of June is 5.02 inches, so nearly double the amount. It was a wet month indeed.”

In the last 141 years of record keeping, June 2010 was the wettest average at 10.39 inches. In 1947, June averaged 10.33 inches of rainfall across Iowa.

Hillaker said a majority of that average came in the second half of June. During the heavy flooding in 2008, June averaged more rainfall during the first half of the month.

“The difference from 2008 has been the much cooler spring and cooler summer overall, making it more difficult for some areas to dry out,” Hillaker said.

But, the end of May and beginning of June stayed relatively dry in 2014, allowing the soil a chance to handle the recent rainfall.

“There have been some spotty heavy showers where the rain came down so fast it just rain off,” Ross said. “Some places have gotten more rain and the soil is very saturated.”

The northwest corner of Iowa is experiencing record flooding and the water is moving south toward the Cedar Rapids and Iowa City area, which experienced extensive damage from the 2008 flooding.

The Iowa River flood stage is 12 feet and it is currently at 15 feet. It is expected to crest at 17 feet later this week, well below 2008 flood levels.

“The forecast is not showing any more rain before the water reaches its peak,” Hillaker said.

Iowa’s drought monitor map (shown right) has parts of southwest Iowa listed as abnormally dry and eastern Iowa in moderate drought conditions. Those rankings are expected to change when the U.S Department of Agriculture releases an updated map Thursday.

Ross said the NRCS plans to start some terrace work during July, which will be telling of the subsoil conditions in southwest Iowa.

While more rain is not what most farmers and homeowners want to hear as they try to restore their property to a sense of normalicy after the string of severe storms, Ross said mother nature cannot turn off the water works yet.

“There are a lot of guys that are almost a cutting behind on hay,” Ross said. “So we could you a couple of dry days to get the hay mowed and up.”

But, he added the critical point for corn and soybeans to get moisture is during the pollination period. This year corn is expected to start in late July and soybeans will pollinate in early August.

“If the water spigot gets shut off right now, we could be in trouble,” Ross said. “We could use some nice half inch to three-quarter inch gentle rains in that time frame.”

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