OTTUMWA — October was wet for Ottumwa, with rainfall topping 4 inches. It's the first time since May that the area saw more rain than average in a month.
That's good news, right? Yes. And the benefits will likely start to appear in next week's report from the U.S. Drought Monitor. This week's report left most of southeast Iowa in the severe drought category with no change at all reported in the state.
But there's a catch. If there's too much rain coming down too fast, the ground can't handle it. Ottumwa received more than a half-inch of rain in less than an hour. Was that too much?
The state climatologist doesn't think so. Harry Hillaker said that is a lot of rain but probably within the ability of the soil to absorb.
“We had very dry conditions prior to this rain,” he said. “Just a wild guess, most of it would have gotten absorbed.”
October usually brings about 2.82 inches of rain to Ottumwa. Nearly that much fell Wednesday, bringing the monthly total to 4.37 inches. And unlike this past summer when the area saw only trace rainfall from Aug. 8 to Sept. 11, every week saw measurable rain in October.
Patterns can change, of course. A rainy October doesn't mean more will come next month. Ottumwa had a wet year going until the tap turned off over the summer.
But Hillaker is cautiously optimistic, at least about the next week to 10 days. Forecasts show November getting off to “a relatively wet start.”
And there is time to recharge the soil before winter's freeze arrives. The ground in this part of Iowa doesn't usually freeze for the season until about Dec. 10.
With any luck, we'll have more rain before then.