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Living in Paradise, Mo. — for now

Friday, October 15, 2010 | 6:52 p.m. CDT; updated 7:44 p.m. CDT, Friday, October 15, 2010
Dom Bergfeld tries on stretch pants for his friends on the patio of Campus Bar and Grill on Friday. The group of friends who started their evening on the patios of Quinton's Deli were kicking off the weekend by enjoying the nice weather in Columbia.

COLUMBIA — Artist David Spear stood at Ninth Street and Broadway, dipped his paintbrush into a blob of blue and touched up the sky in a painting he completed on a traffic control box in 2007. Overhead, an unblemished blue sky arced over Columbia — the latest in a streak of great weather.

Only 0.05 inches of rain has fallen in Columbia since October began, according to the National Weather Service. The average high has been 73 degrees. Nights, on average, have dipped to 46 degrees.

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While some people have taken advantage of the clear autumn days with long rides on the MKT Trail or dinners out on the patio, others have found this the ideal setting to get things done. Mike Minkin, 25, was thankful for a warm, dry Friday morning. As a plasterer, he depends on it.

“If it rains, we can’t work. Any cold weather, we can’t work,” Minkin said. “This is perfect.”

This “perfect” weather has as much to do with Peru as it does with good luck. Benjamin Sipprell, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in St. Louis, said that La Niña — an event in which water temperature off the Peruvian coast is a few degrees cooler than usual and extends further west into the Pacific Ocean than normal — is partly responsible for keeping Missouri’s weather mild and stable.

“It’s shoving most of the storm systems away from Missouri and into the eastern seaboard,” Sipprell said.

La Niña, which last occurred in 2006-2007, keeps high-pressure systems in the west and low-pressure systems in east. Missouri falls on the western side of the split, which lies, approximately, on a fluctuating line between Chicago and Atlanta. Because it is near the divide, Missouri has not experienced significantly higher-than-normal temperatures as states farther west have, but it has experienced less rainfall over the past month.

No rain is welcome news to area farmers, who are still feeling the effects of heavy rain from earlier this year. Steve Wright, who farms 1,900 acres of corn and soybeans in Monroe County, said flooding and diseases, which are more rampant in wet conditions, destroyed some farmers’ first plantings. Clear skies are welcome, even if they came late.

“Our harvest conditions right now are real good," Wright said. "Harvest has improved.”

Jim Jarman, an agronomy specialist with MU Extension, said that the crop yields for the state will still be lower than expected but that the dry weather is helping the harvest.

“Anything that helps crops dry out makes them better for storage,” he said.

The weather of the past few weeks also has led to faster harvesting than usual. “Corn harvest advanced more rapidly than normal to reach 74 percent statewide, 39 days ahead of last year and 18 days ahead of normal,” according to a United States Department of Agriculture report.

For some, nice weather is simply a reason to go on a bike ride or have an evening drink outside. Katie Rader, manager of Bengals Bar and Grill, said the outdoor patio at Bengals, which has a capacity of 580 on normal days and 1,439 on football Saturdays, stays open “as long as it’s nice enough to sit outside.” The patio can be equipped with walled tents and heaters to help keep it open later into the season, Rader said, but nice weather has a way of bringing more people out.

The first chance for rain is Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service. But for now, it's time to get outside.

Amid the Friday afternoon traffic, curious passersby and the high-pitched "zzzz" of a circular saw cutting bricks one block down, a calm David Spear continued to paint.

“I’m touching up some chips," he said. "But while I’m at it, I might add a few clouds.”


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