Midwest Floods And World Droughts

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After a dry and warm spell across North Idaho, rain and cooler temperatures returned to the region late last week. As of the weekend, Cliff has measured about an inch-and-a-third of rain for the month of June. The average precipitation for this month is 1.93 inches. As we’ve been saying for weeks, we still think our summer season will be dry, but not as dry as the previous two summer seasons in North Idaho and the rest of the Pacific Northwest.

In the heart of the U.S., across parts of the Great Plains and the Midwest, the rains have continued to fall, making 2019 the worst flooding disaster since the “500-Year Floods” in 1993. Last month was one of the toughest months for residents east of the Rockies. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. national average for precipitation was 4.41 inches, which was about 1.50 inches above normal. That was the second highest total since records began in January of 1895. The wettest May in the U.S. was in 2015 with an average of 4.44 inches.

Over the last 12 months ending on April 30, the U.S. had its wettest period in recorded history. Over the Lower 48, an averaged total of over 36 inches of rain fell, according to Bob Henson of Weather Underground. We also had the wettest January through May with an averaged total of 15.71 inches. The old record was 15.13 inches during the same period in 1983.

As a result of the continuous heavy rainfall, especially over the Great Plains and Midwest, the Arkansas, Missouri and Mississippi rivers have been going over their banks in some areas. Vicksburg, Miss., has experienced ongoing massive flooding since the middle of February.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers say that the Great Lakes are near or at record levels due to the heavy rainfall and snowmelt. In addition to the flooding rains, last month had approximately 555 tornadoes in the U.S., according to NOAA. The average is 276 twisters in May and last month was the most active 30-day period of tornado activity since 2011.

With the additional rainfall in June, the farming community is doing everything it can to get its crops planted. However, many fields are literally underwater or covered with mud. Corn production is expected to be way down as millions of acres will be planted this year. And, the corn that has been planted is coming up very slowly due to the poor conditions. The number of plantings of crops is about 50 to 75 percent of what it should be at this time of year. In some cases, farmers in these flooded areas are unable to plant up to 90 percent of their crops.

Many farmers are saying this is a disaster like they have never seen before. After a weather pattern of flooding rains, conditions could quickly change to the hot and dry side in the central U.S. during the summer season. Too much heat too soon would likely further damage what crops have been planted. Also, as many crops have been planted very late in the season or taking too long to mature, early frosts in August and September are also a concern.

Regardless, it’s a terrible year for the Midwestern farmer. It will likely take years for recovery from the floods and severe weather. Many farmers have already declared bankruptcy. In order to survive, others have gone to “preventive planting,” which is government aid for producers who must report crop acreage they intended to plant, but prevented from doing so due to national disaster.

With so much talk surrounding the floods, there are still some areas of dryness. The regions of drought in the U.S. are in southeastern Georgia, the coastlines of the Carolinas and extreme northern North Dakota near the Canadian border. Parts of Hawaii and Puerto Rico are also experiencing moderate drought conditions. About 5 percent of the contiguous U.S. was in drought, which was a little higher during the beginning of May.

In other parts of the world, drought is a major concern in India, Africa and Australia. In Australia, a 3-year-long dry spell has hurt grain production driven its national cattle herds to 25-year lows. Major Australian cities like Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne are seeing water levels in dams down to nearly 50 percent. Water storage levels are the lowest since 2010 and if conditions don’t change soon, then water restrictions are likely to be put in place in the southern portion of the continent.

The drought situation is far worse in parts of India. The country’s sixth largest city, Chennai, is literally running out of water. Within the next year, it’s estimated that 40 percent of India’s population will have no access to drinking water, including major cities like Delhi and Bengaluru. Many of the area’s rivers, bodies of water, wetlands and forests have dried up due to severe heat and extended dryness.

Here in North Idaho, we are fortunate to have plenty of water. We still see a pattern of scattered showers and thunderstorms into July. Conditions should turn drier next month and into August before the rains increase later in September.

• • •

Contact Randy Mann at randy@longrangeweather.com

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