The Ottumwa Courier

October 18, 2012

Rain weakens Iowa drought

MATT MILNER
CNHI

OTTUMWA — A rainy weekend took a major bite out of this year's drought.

Southeast Iowa saw more rain last weekend than it typically does through the entire month of October. It wasn't enough to break the drought, but it did drop most of the area from the extreme category to severe.

The U.S. Drought Monitor says the percentage of Iowa in extreme drought conditions dropped by more than 10 percentage points. And, for the first time in weeks, some areas in southwestern and northeastern Iowa even fell into the moderate drought category.

Most of the state saw significant rains; totals of over two inches were common. Parts of southeast Iowa saw over three inches of rain.

In southeast Iowa, only northwestern Marion County and the very northwestern tip of Mahaska County remain in extreme drought. That's a major week-to-week improvement.

The rain came far too late to help with this year's crops, but it could be critically important for next year. Soil moisture levels ran very low this summer as scorching temperatures and little rain baked the earth. Farmers need moisture levels to rise and they're up against a winter deadline. Once the ground freezes it becomes very difficult to recharge water levels, no matter how much snow falls.

There are signs the rain helped. The U.S. Department of Agriculture said this week that both topsoil and subsoil moisture levels improved, but the ground remains dry.