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October will be one of driest on record in Southeast Missouri

Friday, October 29, 2010

Barring a large, unforecast rainfall, October will go into the record books as the seventh-driest October on record since 1919, the first year weather records were kept for Cape Girardeau.

Climatologist Pat Guinan with the University of Missouri Extension program said 0.51 inches of rain have fallen this month, 2.70 inches less than the normal October average of 3.21 inches of precipitation.

To date, the precipitation average for the year is down 5.47 inches in Cape Girardeau.

Guinan said September was wetter than average but that with high winds and high temperatures, it does not take long for dry conditions to appear. Cape Girardeau County is listed as abnormally dry on the U.S. Department of Agriculture's drought monitor, and the severity increases in the most southern counties of the area.

While the growing season in the county depends on a balance of rain and dry conditions, it is not as critical during the fall, said Dale Steffens, president of the Cape Girardeau County Farm Bureau. Most harvesting can be done in dry weather, he said, but dryness does affect the planting of fall crops such as wheat and grass.

"When it's dry, they won't come up," Steffens said. Farmers living in flatter areas of the region can irrigate, he said, but those in the hillier areas do not always have the option.

Many farmers rely on rain to grow grass and other ground plants to feed their animals throughout the year.

"Pastures for livestock can be affected," Steffens said. "If there's no water, it won't germinate. They might need to feed hay."

He said most farmers have a large supply of hay, but if the dry conditions continue, more hay may need to be purchased. Any large demand and subsequent price increases in hay could mean reduced profits for farmers, he said.

While some farmers in the southern part of the area burn their fields after harvest, Steffens said that is not typical in Cape Girardeau County.

"There's not much burning fields in the area," he said. "The dead corn stalks and bean stalks are left to help with erosion in the hillier area."

Steffens said the small amount of rain the area received earlier this week may not seem like much, but it did help farmers. Firefighters, however, said more rain is still needed to eliminate the fire risk.

"It hasn't rained decently in over a month, month and a half. Conditions are very dry. High winds and almost drought conditions increase the fire danger," said Jim Roche, board president of the Millersville Fire Protection District. He said this week's precipitation was not the soaking rain the area needs. He said probably four inches would be necessary to reduce the fire risk.

While Roche said he was glad the Cape Girardeau County Commission passed a burn restriction order Monday, he still sees people burning.

"My concern is, because I'm president of the fire district, is it puts our firefighters at risk to answer these calls from people who weren't using common sense," he said.

Roche said it does not take much in the current conditions for a small burn to become uncontrolled.

cbartholomew@semissourian.com

243-8600


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