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Columbia Missourian

Rain beneficial but not enough to quench drought

By Ashley Fowler
January 30, 2013 | 6:57 p.m. CST
Paden Gentry, an electrical engineering student at MU, is bundled against cold weather. In contrast to Gentry, a window display promoting an apartment complex depicts warmer weather. This week has included high temperature records on Monday, high rainfall totals on Tuesday and snow flurries on Wednesday.

COLUMBIA — The 1.53 inches of rain on Tuesday put a dent in the ongoing drought, but much more rain is needed before the spring growing season. 

Pat Guinan, state climatologist and MU Extension assistant professor of climatology, said it was the most significant rainfall event for the state since the remnants of Hurricane Isaac moved through Missouri in August.

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"It was something we badly needed, a step in the right direction," Guinan said.

Tuesday's rainfall at Columbia Regional Airport set a record for Jan. 29. The previous record for Jan. 29 precipitation was 1.24 inches in 1968, Jon Carney , meteorologist at the National Weather Service in St. Louis, said.

But 2012 was the driest year for Missouri since 1980, and Columbia remains more than 15 inches below normal rainfall since May 1, 2012.

Mark Fuchs, a hydrologist at the National Weather Service in St. Louis, said it would take a 5- or 6-inch rain to bring Columbia close to average rainfall. "But it would do little to no good if our pattern went back to dry after a few weeks with no rain," Fuchs said.

"The soil profile is dryer than I've seen it in probably 20 years," Bill Wiebold, agronomist and professor of plant sciences at MU, said. "We need to have continued rains that would start to infiltrate into the soil and fill that profile up."

"Tuesday's rain was a good start, but we need much more to get our soils ready for the next growing season," Wiebold said.

Supervising editor is John Schneller.