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Climatologist says August was the driest on record

Tuesday, September 9, 2003

Last month was the driest August on record with less than an inch of rain the entire month, the state climatologist said.

Harry Hillaker said statewide average rainfall last month was 0.96 inches. The normal rainfall for August is 4.19 inches.

"It hasn't been dry enough long enough to create major problems in the water supply," he said. "But for corn and soybean production, the critical months for rainfall are in July and August."

As of Aug. 31, Iowa's precipitation for the year is about 5 inches below normal, at 19.95 inches. So far, 2003 stands as the 27th driest in 131 years of record-keeping, Hillaker said.

He said this summer's drought is different because most dry spells last for several months. The current trend has lasted only from mid-July to now.

Livestock producers, who have seen pasture land dry up, are already feeding hay intended to be saved for winter.

"Pasture ground is always the first to go because it uses up so much moisture," Hillaker said. "The good news is if it starts to rain, pastures will renew themselves in no time."

Homeowners will dry dead-looking grass should not be alarmed because rain also will bring the grass back to life, said Kevin Johnson, president of All-American Turf Inc.

"Right now, most lawns are all brown and look dead, but they're just dormant. Mother Nature is telling grass not to grow," he said.

He said rain and cooler temperatures will bring the green back to the grass.

He said watering lawns with an inch of water would be appropriate if if doesn't rain in the next few weeks.

The National Weather Service forecasts rain for Wednesday night, Thursday and Friday, when a cold front sweeps down from the northwest.

Hillaker said dry weather through the fall and into winter could cause river levels to drop so far they're no longer navigable.

"That probably is not going to happen this fall," he said. "Seasonally, there's a good possibility that we're still in good shape," Hillaker said.



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