Drought dampened, not quenched

The city recorded more than a quarter-inch of rain for the first time in 43 days.
Wednesday, July 27, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 3:36 a.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

Even with cooler temperatures and Tuesday’s rain, Missouri farmers are facing the loss of millions of dollars worth of crops destroyed by drought.

“It could be even much higher than that,” said Tim Kelley, executive director of the Missouri Farm Service Agency. “Nationwide, the 1980 drought cost the nation more than $35 billion dollars.”

A cold front that moved across the country Tuesday brought showers and thunderstorms to much of northern and western Missouri and caused a welcome drop in temperatures, said meteorologist Jim Sieveking of the National Weather Service office in St. Louis. The front dropped Columbia’s high temperature to 94 degrees Tuesday and gave the city its first rain of more than a quarter-inch since June 13. That was 43 days ago.

Still, it wasn’t much. The weather station at MU’s Sanborn Field had recorded 0.42 inches of rain by 10 p.m., while the National Weather Service station at Columbia Regional Airport recorded 0.47 inches. The weather service predicted more showers overnight.

While some areas of northwest Missouri received as much as three inches of rain, most received only 1 to 1.5 inches. The showers in central Missouri were less productive and will do little to end the drought.

“It certainly won’t change it, but it does have the opportunity to help,” said Steve McIntosh, director of the Water Resources Program for the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

Across the state, 37 percent of the corn crop is considered poor or very poor and 29 percent is fair, according to the Missouri Agricultural Statistics Service. Beans are a bit better off because they mature later; 33 percent were rated poor or very poor.

Meanwhile, pastures are scorched. The service reported that 75 percent of Missouri pasturelands in the state are in either poor or very poor condition.

Rain is crucial over the next three weeks for soybeans and pastures, said Gene Danekas, director of the agricultural statistics service.

“What we really need is about a three-day, three-inch rain,” he said. Soybeans could bounce back if they receive enough rain in time for pollination. Corn, however, has already passed that crucial point.

“The effects of the drought have, (with) the extreme high temperatures, already been felt in the corn crops,” he said.

The National Weather Service isn’t forecasting within the next seven days the kind of big rain soybeans need. The next chance for precipitation is more than a week away, meteorologist Dale Bechtold of the National Weather Service said.

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