Isaac offers little hope for drought relief

As Tropical Storm Isaac moves up the Mississippi River Valley with drenching rain, it will probably miss the drought-parched areas of the Midwest that need water most while ruining crops in other areas waiting for harvest.

Flood warnings and watches reach across Louisiana, which may get up to 20 inches (51 centimeters) of rain, and through Arkansas, where as much as 5 inches may fall, according to the National Weather Service. After Isaac begins to break up, its remnants are expected to drift north into Missouri and then east across Illinois and Indiana.

“It may put a dent in it, but it isn’t going to relieve” the drought, said Jeff Masters, co-founder of Weather Underground in Ann Arbor, Michigan. “It may knock them down one category.”

Drought gripped 63.2 percent of the contiguous 48 states as of Aug. 21, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor in Lincoln, Nebraska. Of the four official categories of drought, the two worst covered 23.01 percent of the 48 states.

The dryness has left 38 percent of U.S. soybeans in poor or very poor condition, while 52 percent of corn was rated in the worst categories, the Department of Agriculture said.

Terry Hayhurst, who farms in Vigo County, Indiana, 11 miles south of Terre Haute, spent most of this summer looking up at the sky, hoping for rain.

Farm Impact

Now that Isaac is predicted to bring soaking showers to his 1,200 acres of corn, soybeans and sorghum-sudangrass, Hayhurst said the rain will mostly just delay the harvest of corn and feed for his cows.

“For the most part” the rain is coming too late, Hayhurst said in an interview. “But we’ll take moisture this year, however we can get it.”

The soybeans, which he feared could be a total loss a month ago, could benefit from a deluge.

“Of course, we don’t want to get 20 inches,” he said.

For the rain to do the most good, it needs to fall slowly and over a few days, said David Miskus, a meteorologist with the U.S. Climate Prediction Center in Camp Springs, Maryland. If the rain falls hard and fast, most of it will run off and won’t be absorbed by the soil.

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