Unusually dry conditions in southeast Missouri

Tuesday, May 15, 2012 | 11:40 a.m. CDT

SIKESTON — Drought conditions have hit sections of southeast Missouri this spring in stark contrast to the major flooding the region faced last year.

Sam Atwell, agronomy specialist for the MU Extension, said most of the region has received only about two-tenths of an inch of rain in May, putting the area about nine to 10 inches behind the average rainfall for this time of the year.

"By and large, everyone needs a rain, and there may be a mile or two stretch somewhere that got a good inch or so of rain, but it's few and far between," Atwell told the Southeast Missourian.

New Madrid and Mississippi counties are in a moderate drought, and most of Scott and Stoddard counties have been classified as abnormally dry, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Moderate drought conditions also exist in parts of Scott, Stoddard and Pemiscot counties, and Cape Girardeau, much of Bollinger and the southeastern part of Perry counties are all considered abnormally dry, according to the Drought Monitor.

Pat Guinan, extension climatologist with the MU Commercial Agriculture Program, said it's unclear if more rain will hit the area later this month, which averages about 5 inches and is typically the wettest month of the year in Missouri.

A year ago the region was in the midst of record rainfall and floods, with the bloated Mississippi River straining levees. Ultimately, about 130,000 acres flooded after the Birds Point Floodway was intentionally breached to reduce the risk of flooding at nearby Cairo, Ill.

"Last year by this time, everything was floating and flooding," said Jim Packett, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Paducah, Ky. "Now some areas are getting very dry and in drought conditions."

But varying weather conditions from year to year are expected in Missouri, Atwell said.

"The current weather is exactly opposite of last year's, which means it's normal," Atwell said.

Atwell said, however, that the dry conditions have forced growers to irrigate more than normal.

"Crops that were really early and ahead of schedule are now hitting 'crunch time,' and almost all the farmers are now waiting on rain to finish their planting as there are still a lot of cotton and soybeans that need to get in the ground," he said.

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