By MATT MILNER
Courier staff writer
---- — OTTUMWA — The first significant rains in more than a month arrived on the same day as a new report that underscored the effects of this summer's drought. Nature, it seems, is not without a sense of humor.
Storms raked Iowa Thursday night. Ottumwa officially saw .45 inches of rain, though amounts varied considerably. Locations around Ottumwa received well over a half-inch of rain. Preliminary totals showed almost an inch falling in Centerville and Oskaloosa, while two-thirds of an inch fell in Bloomfield.
Severe thunderstorm warnings were issued for almost every area county, with strong winds knocking out power to hundreds. At its peak, more than 800 customers in Jefferson County were without power.
Winds near the Oskaloosa airport exceeded 60 mph as the storms passed through and a gust of 50 mph hit What Cheer. Trees 4-6 inches in diameter were toppled, according to damage reports. Ottumwa saw less damage, but it was still enough to take down some power lines.
Most of the damage appeared to be centered on the Des Moines area, where more than 10,000 customers remained without power Friday morning. The windstorm created damage equivalent to EF0 and EF1 tornadoes, though there were no reports of any tornadoes actually touching down.
The rain was entirely welcome for a state with almost three-quarters of its area in moderate drought. The U.S. Drought Monitor released a new map Thursday morning that showed a wide swath of the state, including almost all of southeast Iowa, in severe drought. The report includes data up to Tuesday.
The conditions were virtually unchanged from the previous week. The situation has worsened considerably in the past month. While the rain will help, it's not clear how much. A report focusing on crop conditions due Monday from the U.S. Department of Agriculture is the next important measure.
There doesn't appear to be much relief on the horizon. The Climate Prediction Center expects drought to persist through the end of the year.