A pair of runners warm up underneath a rare, cloudless sky Saturday before the Austin Invitational at Larry Gilbertson Track. While Saturday was clear, most of April has not been. But with the amount of precipitation this month has come some relief for those dealing with dry area conditions. -- Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com
A pair of runners warm up underneath a rare, cloudless sky Saturday before the Austin Invitational at Larry Gilbertson Track. While Saturday was clear, most of April has not been. But with the amount of precipitation this month has come some relief for those dealing with dry area conditions. -- Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

Archived Story

An end to the drought? Weather may be cold and wet, but persistent rains are helping

Published 10:52am Monday, April 22, 2013

For Mower County, at least, the drought that started in 2011 may be nearly over.

While the area is still 18.6 inches below normal precipitation since Aug. 1, 2011, according to the U.S. drought monitor, it is 2.6 inches above normal for 2013 thus far. In just April, there has been 4.79 inches of precipitation, which is already well above the average of 2.9 for the entire month. What’s more, nearly all the ground frost has thawed, soils are soaking up water, and the groundwater table is on the rise.

“The rains are really starting to work into the groundwater,” said Zack Taylor, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in La Crosse, Wis. “In the last week or two, we’ve seen pretty good jumps in the groundwater table. That’s making the biggest difference in the drought.”

In southeastern Minnesota the groundwater has risen anywhere from 1 to 4.5 feet, according to the Drought Monitor, and Mower County’s drought rating has been reduced to abnormally dry and moderately dry. The last Drought Monitor listed much of Mower County in a severe drought.

While all that may be good news for the environment, the feeling is different for some.

“I always want to be planting corn on my birthday,” said Bruce Nelsen of Rose Creek.

Nelsen’s birthday was Saturday. He didn’t plant corn.

Last year many farmers started planting the first week in April. This year, they still may not know when they’re going to get in the fields. The outlook may be much like 2011, when area farmers didn’t plant until the beginning of May. Nelsen said he’d rather take a little rain now and get the rest in June and July when the crops can really use it, as it only takes a little bit of moisture to get crops started.

“It may be a May 1st start this year,” Nelsen said. “You never know.”

Nelsen could be right, as the NWS forecasts a chance of rain or rain and snow for every day through next Wednesday.

So when can farmers expect to fire up their tractors and golfers expect to hit the links?

“The short answer is: Not in the foreseeable future,” Taylor said, and added the weather could be cool and wet through the rest of April and into May. There are few indicators of when the weather could feel more like springtime. Above normal snowpack in North Dakota and northern Minnesota continues to cool the air moving into the region, Taylor added.

And with continued rain, there may be a chance of flooding. Weather and hydrology experts are watching the situations closely in northern Minnesota and on the Mississippi. They expect rivers to rise at the end of the month.

“We expect to see some rises later on in this month and earlier next month,” Taylor said.


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