Forecasts calling for more rain

  • Article by: Warren Wolfe
  • Star Tribune
  • August 20, 2007 - 8:11 PM

After a brief respite today -- if you can call a few rain showers a respite -- another inch or two of rain could fall over already soaked areas of southern Minnesota on Wednesday and Thursday, forecasters said.

"We've got about a 50 percent chance of rain through Thursday, and some of it's going to be pretty heavy," said forecaster Karen Trammell of the National Weather Service office in Chanhassen.

"Unfortunately the area already hit hard will be the primary area to get additional rainfall -- maybe up to an inch or two each day," she said.

While thousands of Minnesotans pick through rain-soaked debris, crops in much of central Minnesota are still wilting under drought conditions, said Assistant State Climatologist Greg Spoden.

"The drought has ended for a lot of southern Minnesota and certainly eased in the southwestern part, but not for the central and northern areas," he said.

"For a lot of farmers it's a real tragedy -- crops lost to drought or crops lost to flooding or both," Spoden said.

A stationary front in northern Iowa began moving eastward Monday, easing the risk of intense downpours that scoured creeks and gullies across the hill country of southeastern Minnesota over the weekend.

"But it looks like another system may be developing early next week in the Dakotas and moving this way," Trammell said. "It's too early to be certain, but that could drop more rain across southern Minnesota."

Some areas benefited

Some parts of south-central Minnesota were able to absorb heavy rains because "soils were so dry that farmers could insert a hand in cracked fields," Spoden said Monday. "In those areas, even with 5 inches of rain, there was almost no pooling of water because the soil could take it in."

In southeastern Minnesota, rains early this month pulled the area out of moderate drought and left little room for the 5 to 15 inches of rain that fell Saturday and Sunday throughout that region.

"Soil-moisture conditions there were probably the best in the state," he said. "But then it just flooded, and it took a lot of crops, topsoil, homes and roads with it."

In the metro area, rainfall amounts varied widely.

"In the southern metro, the trees and lawns probably are going to be in very good shape because the rainfall was heavier," Spoden said. "But we got less than an inch in Brooklyn Park, where I live."

Temperatures for the rest of the week are expected to be in the 70s and low 80s.

Entrenched drought

Drought remains entrenched across much of central and northern Minnesota, and it will not be eased by modest rainfall, Spoden said.

In those areas, "crop prospects started to dim in May and just got worse," he said.

And now, additional rain probably will not help Minnesota's corn crop, said University of Minnesota Extension climatologist Mark Seeley.

"The corn crop is pretty much made, but soybeans might benefit if they're still setting pods," he said.

Monday's weekly crop report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture showed that about one-third of Minnesota's corn crop and one-fourth of the soybean crop are in poor or very poor condition.

The biggest benefit of the heavy rains may be improved pastures and alfalfa grown for hay, he said.

The crop report said that two-thirds of the state's pastures are in poor or very poor condition, "and this rain could really make a difference," Seeley said. "Hay prices are very, very high because of the shortages, and the rain may mean farmers can get a decent final cutting of hay next month."

Warren Wolfe •

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