Drought creeping into much of Southeast Missouri

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

SIKESTON, Mo. -- Sporadic and scarce rainfall across Southeast Missouri this spring has forced the region into abnormally dry and even drought-like conditions.

Rain in the Bootheel has definitely been spotty, according to Sam Atwell, agronomy specialist and county program director for the University of Missouri Extension in New Madrid County and Southeast Region.

"By and large, everyone needs a rain, and there may be a mile or two stretch somewhere that got a good inch or so of rain, but it's few and far between," Atwell said.

In general, two-tenths of an inch is what most of the area has received in rainfall so far this month, Atwell said.

"We're probably nine or 10 inches behind the average rainfall for the year and about five inches behind for the month of April. We haven't had any rain (except maybe two-tenths of an inch) in May," Atwell said.

Growers are already having to irrigate earlier than normal -- and more than normal, Atwell said. Adding to that is the fact the planting season occurred early because of the warm weather, he noted.

"Crops that were really early and ahead of schedule are now hitting "crunch time," and almost all the farmers are now waiting on rain to finish their planting as there are still a lot of cotton and soybeans that need to get in the ground," Atwell said.

The majority of corn and rice are growing and are large enough now to handle irrigation, however, Atwell said.

"Every day that stays dry just puts a lot of pressure on crops -- specifically cotton and soybeans -- that are real young or not even planted yet," Atwell said.

According to the latest report by the U.S. Drought Monitor, all of Mississippi and New Madrid counties are in a moderate drought while the majority of Scott and Stoddard counties are classified as being abnormally dry. A small southern portion of Scott County, a southwestern portion of Stoddard County and the north half of Pemiscot County are also in a state of moderate drought. Cape Girardeau, almost all of Bollinger and the southeastern part of Perry counties are all considered abnormally dry.

"The current weather is exactly opposite of last year's, which means it's normal," Atwell said.

Jim Packett, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Paducah, Ky., agreed, saying summer in Southeast Missouri is expected to be "normal."

"That means hot, humid like usual with spotty chances for rain and thunderstorms," the meteorologist said.

A year ago the region was in the midst of record rainfall and record flood levels, Packett pointed out.

"Last year by this time, everything was floating and flooding," Packett said "Now some areas are getting very dry and in drought conditions."

According to the National Weather Service in Paducah, February 2011 rainfall for the region totaled 5.79 inches compared to 2.19 in 2012. In March 2011, the average was 6.56 inches compared to 4 inches in 2012 and in April, totals were 15.91 inches in 2011 and .56 inch in 2012.

According to the Sikeston Power Station, which serves an official observer for the National Weather Station, Sikeston has received only .32 inch of rainfall in May.

"The month will go down in the books with precipitation a little below normal for the state, averaging around 4 inches, even with a corridor of 5-9 inches that ran from Joplin to St. Louis," said Pat Guinan, extension climatologist with the University of Missouri Commercial Agriculture Program.

Parts of the Bootheel saw less than one inch of rain in April.

"Locations in Bootheel counties witnessed little precipitation during the entire month, running deficits more than 4 inches below normal," said Guinan. "The abnormal dryness is starting to see impacts, with wheat starting to turn yellow, and producers are not planting soybeans yet because it's just too dry."

Both March and April averaged about 58 degrees. April almost seemed cool compared to a record March that ran 14 degrees above normal. Yet April temperatures were also up, trending about 3 degrees warmer than in an average year. That monthly average adds to a much longer pattern of warmer temperatures in Missouri.

Forecasters aren't sure if May will change that, Guianan said. Typically, May is the wettest month of the year in Missouri, averaging around 5 inches.

The region has experienced little or no severe weather since late March, Packett said.

"We did have those factors in winter which kept us very warm and wet and those factors have ceased," the meteorologist said. "We're back to 'normal,' and it's supposed to remain that way through the summer unless something else changes."

Fronts will still move through the region, but typically July and August don't have much activity, Packett said.

"We're hoping we don't stay this dry through the month of June. That will be the last good shot of getting some precipitation -- unless large global factors intervene. Right now that doesn't look to happen," Packett said.

Pertinent address:

Sikeston, MO

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