Mo. prepares for remnants of Isaac

Friday, August 31, 2012
Dust fills the air as a farmer harvests corn Thursday afternoon near Commerce, Mo. (Laura Simon)

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Missouri was preparing Thursday for what has been an unusual occurrence this drought-stricken summer -- several rainy days.

Forecasters anticipate remnants of what had been Hurricane Isaac will drop several inches of rain in Missouri, with precipitation expected to start before dawn today in southern Missouri. The storm also will drench central and eastern Missouri. The National Weather Service in St. Louis said the area could get 3 to 5 inches of rain with some spots receiving even more.

A weakening Isaac was moving inland Thursday after coming ashore this week in Louisiana. It has been downgraded from a hurricane.

While the rain might take the edge off of Missouri's drought, forecasters don't believe it will be broken. Some areas of southwestern Missouri are a foot to 18 inches short on rain, and Columbia is more than a foot behind on rain since the start of the growing season May 1.

"It will us a good chance to get a good, soaking rain," said John Gagan, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Springfield. "Not a drought-buster, but this will go to certainly help. Really what you need to break the drought is going to be a steady diet of rainfall on a regular basis."

The area to see the largest dose of rain depends on the storm's path -- places east of the system's track are expected to get more rain than the western side.

Forecasters said winds are not a major concern, and there's some risk for runoff as the rain hits dried-out ground. People near smaller rivers and streams also have been urged to be cautious about increasing water levels.

In September 2008 -- Missouri's last brush with hurricane remnants -- Gustav dropped as much as 6 inches of rain and caused some scattered road closures and minor flooding. But later that month, Ike caused weekend storms that led to flash flooding around the state. Heavy rains in northeastern Missouri pushed the Cuivre River out of its banks and gave residents only minutes to flee before several feet of floodwaters filled homes.

Isaac prompted the rearranging of kickoff times for high school football games. Some games will start earlier Friday, and The Carthage Press reported another will be played Thursday to avoid the weather.

The Missouri Public Service Commission, which is responsible for regulating utilities, reminded residents to assume downed power lines are live and dangerous. Meanwhile, utility Ameren Corp. was preparing to respond if the storm moved through its service territory. Ameren has 2.4 million electric customers and more than 900,000 natural gas customers in Missouri and Illinois.

Wet weather comes at the end of a summer marked by withered crops, baked lawns and parched livestock. The weekly U.S. Drought Monitor map released Thursday showed more than 97 percent of Missouri fell into the worst two categories of drought -- extreme and exceptional -- as of Tuesday.

Conditions in Southeast Missouri are little changed, with most of the area in the worst category of drought. But most of Perry County and small parts of Cape Girardeau and Bollinger counties are in the less-severe "extreme" drought category.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that as of Monday, 27 percent of Missouri's corn crop was in poor condition and 58 percent was considered very poor. Only 3 percent was listed as good and 1 percent was reported as excellent. For soybeans, 32 percent is considered poor and 46 percent was reported as very poor.

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