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February 5, 2013

End of drought

Climatologist says drought is over

Local farmers are hesitant to say the drought is over, while officials believe the end is in sight.

Associate State Climatologist Ken Sheeringa of Purdue University said his office has seen a great improvement in drought conditions after heavy rains in January. However, while the soil conditions are improving locally, farmers say they’re waiting to see what happens in the next few months.

Sheeringa said the amount of rain and snow accumulation in January helped fix the soil deficit caused by the widespread drought conditions last summer. Sheeringa said this means that the drought is likely over.

“It’s looking really good,” Sheeringa said.

After a summer of drought, Sheeringa said conditions began to slowly improve in August. But when there was a rain shortage starting in November, Sheeringa said drought conditions began to return.

Now, with the “extremely variable” warm weather and influx of snow and rain, Sheeringa said crops should no longer be in danger.

“The soils are giving back enough water that they’re ready for the next planting period,” Sheeringa said.

Kory Wilson, a corn, soy bean and tomato farmer in Young America and Galveston, said he’s seen signs of improvement in soil moisture, but it’s not quite enough yet. Still, he said he feels the area is doing better than its northern counterpoints.

“I think we’re in a lot better shape than some areas,” Wilson said.

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor map released last Thursday, Cass and surrounding counties are no longer classified as being in drought. However, counties in the northern part of the state, like Fulton and Pulaski are still classified as “abnormally dry.”

Sheeringa said this is because those areas haven’t had the same rain and snow storms that have been affecting the rest of the state.  

“They just kept getting missed,” Sheeringa said.

However, Sheeringa was optimistic that the map will show improvement this Thursday because of recent storms.

“I’m thinking one of those weeks we’ll get the drought all the way out of here,” Sheeringa said.  

Wilson said he’s not ready to say the drought is “officially” over because he’s waiting to see what happens in March and April.

He said so far, the drought hasn’t affected planning for planting season, but it has caused him to downgrade his marketing and equipment purchases.

Dave Forgey, president of the Cass County Farm Bureau, said he’s also hearing hesitation from farmers. He said he believes it’s dependent on the rain to come.

“We still need to see pretty consistent rain,” Forgey said.  

Sheeringa said he believes precipitation will continue into February and March, and is fairly confident that there will be enough rain in the spring.

“I’m pretty encouraged right now,” Sheeringa said.

Caitlin Huston is a staff reporter of the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at 574-732-5148 or caitlin.huston@pharostribune.com.

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