Season's snow relieve drought conditions
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Season's snow relieve drought conditions

Date: March 20, 2007
By: Gavin Off
State Capitol Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - With the recent snow and rain storms, some parts of Missouri are seeing drought-free conditions for the first time in two years.

But that's little solace for farmers, who say Missouri is always about two dry weeks away from its next drought.

Bill Christison, a farmer of 50 years, raises corn, wheat, soybeans and cattle on his 2,000-acre Chillicothe farm. Last year's summer rains arrived just in time to save his soybeans, he said. Christison said the crop "barely squeaked out."

But after consecutive dry years in north central Missouri, Christison welcomed this winter's snow storms, which alleviated much of the state's drought-like conditions.

According to the Missouri Natural Resources Department, 104 counties were in a drought last September. The state listed 38 of those counties in a phase three drought, where residents were asked to ration or conserve water.

Last month, the department said 76 counties were in a drought. But the drought was limited to an advisory phase, where conditions were only showing signs of drying, said Mike Wells, the department's deputy director.

"The snow and rain we received since December has been very beneficial," Christison said. "At the present time everything looks good. We just have to keep our fingers crossed."

Southwest Missouri farmer Rod Lewis raises forages and cattle. With hay reserves and pastures for his cattle running low last year, Lewis said the recent storms helped tremendously. Lewis said 3.5 inches of rain fell on Stotts City yesterday and, like the rest of Missouri, more is expected.

Scattered showers and thunderstorms are expected to cross Columbia for the next six days. The storms will add to an already wet several months.

According to the National Weather Service, 12.31 inches of precipitation has fallen on Columbia since October 2006. The includes the 15.3 inches of snow dumped on the city in early December.

Lewis said the season's storms have helped water levels in area lakes and the Roaring River to rebound. They have also saturated the soil.

"Right now, we've got good, deep moisture, and we haven't had that in four years," said Tom Hansen, agronomy specialist with the University of Missouri Extension.

Flows along much of the Missouri River have also recovered.

John Drew, state hydrologist for the Natural Resources Department, said that last year measurements of the Missouri River at Booneville found 46 days in which the river's flow reached or tied record lows. Those lows ran from June through November.

Although the state's drought wasn't the sole factor -- droughts along the upper Missouri River and reservoir restrictions also helped reduce flows -- Wells said the increased precipitation prevented what could have been a critical situation.

Low stream or river flows could affect everything from fish and other aquatic resources to irrigation, drinking water and barge traffic.

"This drought went for 1.5 years or a little longer," Wells said. "Things are better, but they're not back to where they were. It's always kind of an iffy call."

After 50 years of farming, Christison has come to the same conclusion. With the weather, one can never be certain, he said.

"At the present time, we're looking forward to a normal year," Christison said. "That's about all that you can do."