The Garden City Telegram
8/15/2013
OPINIONS AND COMMENTARY

Record rain

Even record rain does little to slow extraordinary drought.

In a region where weather-related talk usually centers on dry, hot conditions, it's been refreshing to read of the fallout from recent rainfall.

Surprising amounts of rain earlier this month in western and central Kansas shattered records and attempted to counter extreme dryness. A whopping 184 daily precipitation records were broken as of Monday in August across Kansas, state climatologist Mary Knapp reported. Garden City, Hugoton and Leoti were among towns with record-breaking rain.

While the long-awaited and celebrated arrival of significant rainfall helped raise expectations of at least a hint of improvement in dry conditions, it wasn't enough to reverse the trend in a part of the country still in an exceptional drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Part of the problem is that in the midst of such drought, even extreme rainfall cannot make up for long runs without precipitation. Instead, the dry ground has a tendency to resist soaking up rain, and leads to runoff and flooding.

The recent rain also couldn't aid in a winter wheat crop that saw Kansas produce a harvest short of last year's total, with an estimated 328 million bushels.

Farmers in northwest Kansas suffered the biggest production declines, bringing in just 44 percent of the bushels they had a year ago. Fields in west-central Kansas fared only slightly better with 53 percent, while the southwest reportedly had 55 percent of last year's harvest.

However, the precipitation at least promises to be beneficial when it comes time to harvest fall crops. That's encouraging, as is the chance of more rain in the forecast.

Tim Burke, meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Dodge City, recently noted if more rain arrived — as happened in the past few days — parts of western Kansas could have the wettest August on record (records date back to 1874.)

And, give Burke credit for this understatement: "After being in a drought for a long time, we're hoping for a wet pattern," the meteorologist said.

No doubt, and especially in a place where even record rainfall made little if any dent in the stubborn, devastating drought.