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home : news : putnam   April 29, 2016

8/1/2012 6:00:00 AM
Worst July ever?

Farmer Monty Whipple walks though his drought-stricken corn crops as the sun begins to set Tuesday near Utica. “It doesn’t look so bad when see it from the road, but when you get close you can see the stalks don’t have any ears,” he said.NewsTribune photo/Anthony Soufflé
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Farmer Monty Whipple walks though his drought-stricken corn crops as the sun begins to set Tuesday near Utica. “It doesn’t look so bad when see it from the road, but when you get close you can see the stalks don’t have any ears,” he said.

NewsTribune photo/Anthony Soufflé
Tom Collins
NewsTribune Senior Reporter

July 2012 is in the annals and will be remembered for near-record heat but not for record drought.
The National Weather Service provided July data showing the Illinois Valley was drier than usual — less than half the average monthly precipitation — but well short of the area’s worst-ever drought recorded 96 years ago.
And to hear local farmers tell it, the rain shortage was worse in some parts of La Salle County than in others.
Steve Kunkel farms 1,300 acres primarily in Hope Township and said his crops are holding up better than most. Kunkel observed that local crops are a bit greener in southwest La Salle County, suggesting rainfall hasn’t been as scarce as elsewhere.
“I’m surprised at how good things look,” Kunkel said. “They’re not great by any means and I’m hoping for two-thirds of a crop depending on how the rest of the season goes.
“You don’t have to go very far, though, to see a lot poorer conditions.”
Monty Whipple would gladly trade places with him. Whipple, president of La Salle County Farm Bureau, farms 800 acres in Waltham Township and smack in the middle of a dry-weather band that followed Interstate 80 in July.
Whipple acknowledged reports that farms in Tonica-Lostant and Mendota-Earlville are faring better than his, which got just two-tenths of an inch in July.
“Weather is unpredictable anymore,” Whipple said, attributing the disparity to cyclical weather changes. “It seems like this year, more than any, the rainfalls were just very isolated. If you were under a cloud you might get a half an inch, and a quarter mile away they get nothing.”
Overall, though, the Illinois Valley didn’t get much rain in July.
The National Weather Service reported a woeful 1.84 inches in a month that usually gets 3.85 inches. The withering conditions weren’t close to the record 0.08 inches set in 1916. In fact, last month’s rainfall does not even represent a 30-year low: The service recorded 0.46 inch of rain in July 1991 and 0.37 inch in July 1983.
Temperature-wise, that’s another story.
“That’s what’s keeping us in the game is the average daytime high and overnight low,” said Bill Nelson, meteorologist at the NWS station in Romeoville.
Nelson reported that La Salle County last month posted a mean temperature of 81.3 degrees, 6 degrees above average and the area’s third-hottest July on record. The Illinois Valley also came within striking distance of the all-time high of 83.3 degrees, set in 1901.
Similarly, last month’s average daytime high was 93.1 degrees, nearly 5 degrees above average and good for fifth all-time behind a record 98.6 degrees, set in 1936.
Nighttime typically didn’t bring much relief. The average overnight low was 69.5 degrees, which is 5 points above average and a close second behind the record 69.8 degrees, set in 1955.
The month opened brutally and seldom let up. The week of Independence Day averaged 97 degrees, peaking at 101 degrees on July 7, according to the Weather Channel’s Web site. The century mark would be broken again on July 25, according to the Weather Channel’s Web site, and there were only five July days below 86 degrees.
Even for an ice cream vendor, that’s just too hot.
“(Business has) been up and down,” said Carl Adrian, owner of the Spring Valley Tastee Freez. “If it’s too hot out, people don’t want to leave the house and they don’t come out at all.”
HVAC companies, however, have been hopping. Don Finley, vice president of store operations with John’s Service and Sales in Oglesby, said his staff has spent most of the summer bouncing from one air-conditioning job to another.
“It has been busier this summer with the long stretch of hot weather,” Finley said. “Being hot the whole time with no breaks, our guys have been very steady.”
At the other end of the spectrum are landscapers and lawnmower repair shops. With lawns are dry and dying, Jim’s Repair in Utica is among the businesses that are hurting.
“It’s pretty much been the slowest year on record,” Jim Schrader, a mechanic who specializes in small engine repair. “It’s amazing: One year you get flooded out, the next year you can’t grow grass.”

Tom Collins can be reached at (815) 220-6930 or

Related Stories:
• Drought-stricken corn poised to undercut food chain
• Dry days at Starved Rock
• Illinois River shipping not feeling effects of drought
• Dalzell mayor to residents: Don't waste water
• Drought threatens Illinois crops
• Drought develops across northern Illinois
• Dry weather follows warm spring

Reader Comments

Posted: Wednesday, August 1, 2012
Article comment by: MotherEarthSpeaks

Cut down the trees, remove the sand and marshes, belch pollution in the air, poison the water and earth.
Imbalances around the globe are caused by humans. Everything is connected.
Nature is a reflection of the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual vibrations of man. The native people knew it, and respected her.
Try appreciation of what we have, and do no harm. That is a start.

Posted: Wednesday, August 1, 2012
Article comment by: TomCollinsreporter

As my colleague Jeff Dankert reported on July 27, we are in fact in a drought. It is not a matter of conjecture or opinion.

Posted: Wednesday, August 1, 2012
Article comment by: METALWORKER

What a misleading artical.Like so many who find reasons to discount what is happining weatherwise, Tom, you have done an exalent job.
A drought is not declared because of one days,weeks or even one months rainfall.
A lot of things have to happen at the sametime over a long period.
A few of those things are, lack of moisture, such as, dry periods from last Nov. until now.
A lack of cloudy days, a large number of windy days, both of which draw moisture out of the ground trough evaporation.
All of these things are happening right now and in my garden which is in La Salle and I can no longer afford to water thanks to a sewer tax, there is no moisture in the plant root zone.
We are having a severe drought truogh out Ill.
Some areas arnt as bad but all are having a drought.
So, Tom, make of it what you will, we will all pay for it this winter.

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