Worst of Drought Likely Passed, LOCALLY
Since late May we have talked drought here at my wsaz.com blog. During that almost 8 week period, I have brought you word from local farmers and extension agents. We have talked shriveled corn with Danny Blevins in Lawrence Ky (my story ran before July 4th), and soybeans with Matt Lewis in the Scioto Bottomlands.
In West Virginia, Mason extension agent Rodney Wallbrown has been one of my go to guys for hay as well as “Green Thumb” himself John Marra for local crops and produce.
The theme was the same during the time; namely, a developing Midwest “agricultural drought” was gobbling up many states from the Corn Belt to the Appalachian mountains.
Two weeks ago I further defined how the Midwest drought was especially harsh and devastating from western Ohio to Illinois and Indiana. We talked bushwagging (a term Matt Lewis introduced me to) whereby farmers were cutting their corn losses by chopping down the corn in the field, in effect giving up on the crop.
While parts of Southern Ohio north of Scioto County are still in severe drought (Meigs farmers, I feel for you), the rains that have fallen ELSEWHERE in the past two weeks have enabled farmers to recoup hopes of an OK crop. Not bumper mind you, but OK.
I will be in contact with these farmers all week and will add their perspective.
But make no doubt about it this week’s blog focuses on how the rains have helped the past two weeks and how the forecast for the rest of the growing season is similarly more optimistic.
Here’s the skinny.
Our ground is now sufficiently moist to make our region favored for new rains the rest of the month of July into August. Take this past weekend and today. After last Friday’s all day soaker, most areas had a few new showers. Monday afternoon for example saw showers and thundershowers blossom on radar north of I-64. Those cells then delivered some new downpours to parts of Cabell(east), Putnam(south) and Kanawha(west). Hit or miss for sure, but welcomed showers where they fell none the less.
The same happened over the weekend when some areas had a downpour, others a shower. But the point is most areas did get some additional rain since Friday’s soaker.
I have watched this pattern before feed on itself where new rains are favored over the wetter soil while the parched soils in the Midwest favor more heat and continued stingy rains at best.
So the pattern is locking in for the next several weeks. To illustrate I offer this look at the Friday July 20th weather map above. I believe it is symbolic of what we will see the next few weeks as we travel the fair circuit.
The first thing that strikes you is the deep redness that bakes the middle of the map in the Great Plains. That’s torrid 100+ degree heat.
Note keenly how the core of the heat (deepest reds) has shifted away from Chicago and is now poking all the way into Alberta and Saskatchewan Canada. A configuration like that virtually assures the Plains of no rain for another week even two. With the corn now past tassel and kernel fill stages, farmers are giving up on the crop as lost.
Now note the cooler, greener colors in Eastern Canada where a fishing excursion to a desolate lake in Ontario or Quebec will feature nights in the 40s and days only in the 60s with showers. Can you say fall while you hook your Northern Pike or Walleye?
Now what do you see for us in the middle? Kind of an orange color of hot but not stifling tropical air. That moist air means the stickiness will be high enough to make it frequently uncomfortable. It also means new afternoon and evening showers and an occasional gully washer.
With only 6-8 weeks left in the growing season, new showers the next 2-3 weeks will go a long way to helping farmers salvage a crop.
Unfortunately, our farming friends in the Midwest can not say the same.
Look for add-ons all week.