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Patricia Rod, La Salle County coordinator for the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network, points to how much rain her rain gauge received recently, and explained that drought conditions are likely to remain throughout winter. The additional gauge in the photo measure evapotranspiration — the process of water evaporating into the atmosphere.
NewsTribune photo/Amanda Whitlock
By Matthew Baker and Kevin Caufield NewsTribune Reporters
MENDOTA — Recent heavy downpours combined with light, steady rain throughout much of the weekend did little to stem the effects of this summer’s drought heading into winter. “No, we’re wet on top but if you go about two feet down the soil is still very dry,” said Patricia Rod, La Salle County coordinator for the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network. “The trees are going to suffer.” Rod measured .43 inches of rain recently and the total was as high as .9 in other area gauge locations in the CCRHS network, but that’s hardly enough to bring the Illinois Valley out of drought conditions. “We’re still being classified as severe drought right now,” said Kevin Birk, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Romeoville. If the conditions continue, Birk said water levels will likely be much lower than normal. Additionally, if the spring and summer drought is followed by further dry conditions in winter, it could lead to ongoing drought in 2013. What will winter bring? Almost anyone’s guess is good at this point. Birk said the weather service is predicting “equal chances” of this winter being above, below or near average. “Really a lot of uncertainty this year of what we might see,” he said. The problem, he explained, is the long-range models normally used to predict winter weather are not yet capturing a clear image. For example, a few months ago it appeared El Nino conditions would be setting in, but that hasn’t happened, he said. That and other uncertain atmospheric conditions are making long-range predictions difficult. Looking a little less far ahead, Birk said the next few weeks leading into December are expected to feature above average temperatures and below average precipitation. Nevertheless, the area could end up with some cold and snow by the end of the year, he said. The dry conditions have given farmers plenty of time to work in the fields. As of last week, 98 percent of corn crops had been harvested in Illinois as have 96 percent of soybeans, according to the National Agriculture Statistics Services’ most recent agricultural summary. The most recent NASS press release shows total corn yield projections for Illinois at 64 percent of 2011 production and soybean yield projections at 11 percent less than 2011 production.
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