Iowa Public Television


Rain and Snow Help Reduce Drought

posted on April 19, 2013

Farmers and ranchers try to take control over as many factors of production as they can. But even after centuries of trying they still have no control over the weather. After last year’s drought, it appeared there would be no relief for many as this year’s planting season got underway.

In a strange twist of fate, the nation was hammered by severe weather this week as rain, ice and snow hit everywhere from the mountains to the Atlantic. Some regions went from bone dry to flooded in a matter of days. 

Rain and Snow Help Reduce Drought

The calendar says spring, but Mother Nature continues to disagree.

Heavy snow fell in the plains --- most recently in Nebraska and Minnesota --- where travel was slowed because of the precipitation.

North Dakota’s capital of Bismarck was again in the middle of a winter wonderland. More than 17 inches fell on Sunday, breaking an all-time single day snowfall record. More snow dropped from the sky as the week progressed with even more precip in the forecast. This as some residents continued preparations for predicted flooding around Fargo.

More snow fell in portions of Wyoming and Colorado as a 150 mile stretch of Interstate 80 was shut down. Limited visibility hindered the ability of road crews to keep up with the storm.

April is the second-snowiest month for Colorado and a storm this week added to the monthly total. The moisture also helped boost mountain snowpack which provides most of the water supply downstream.

The depth of mountain snow in both Colorado and Wyoming is below average, but has risen in the last week to 77 percent of average in both states.

The moisture also helps relieve drought stress in Colorado. As revealed in this week’s Drought Monitor from the University of Nebraska, conditions improved almost 5 points in the contiguous United States.

Widespread rains soaked much of the Midwest for the second consecutive week. Thawing has increased allowing for the falling precipitation to soak into the ground and recharge depleted soils.   

Iowa’s climatologist reported the past seven days were the wettest in statewide average rainfall since June of 2010.

Drought battles are giving way to flooding ones… high water is quickly appearing in portions of the Corn Belt. Several single day rainfall records fell in Iowa and Illinois. Stream flows are in the upper 90th percentile resulting in some small and urban flooding.

Portions of Mississippi River could be at or above flood stage in a matter of days from the Quad Cities to St. Louis. Dredging crews spent much of the winter clearing low portions of the channel, now the water could be three to four feet above flood stage.

Rainy weather is hamstringing spring farming. USDA’s latest snapshot of corn planted revealed the lowest completion rate since 2009 with only 2 percent corn in the ground. The five-year average is seven percent. Last year at this time, 16 percent of the crop was in the ground.  


Tags: drought Drought Monitor Illinois Iowa news North Dakota rain snow U.S. weather