Isaac's rains help ease drought a little - but not much

8:49 AM, Sep 4, 2012   |    comments
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Rain from Isaac in Bethalto, Illinois. (Wayne Meinhard)

By Greg Toppo, USA TODAY

Soaking rains from remnants of Hurricane Isaac lifted farmers' spirits over the long Labor Day weekend in the USA's drought-stricken breadbasket. But the rain - approaching 6 inches in a few areas - was mostly too little, too late, officials said.

"It's not going to be drought-busting rainfall, but it certainly is beneficial," said Chris Vaccaro of the National Weather Service.

After blowing through New Orleans and neighboring Gulf Coast areas last week, Isaac moved slowly through the Midwest for several days, bringing soaking rains that stretched from Indiana to Kansas. The weather service said remnants of the storm will affect the Mid-Atlantic region through today with a scattering of rain showers and thunderstorms.

Brian Loving, a U.S. Geological Service hydrologist in Lawrence, Kan., said Isaac's rains "just barely grabbed the edge of Kansas," concentrating more on Missouri, Illinois and Indiana.

For many corn farmers, the rains came too late.

"Corn needed to have water in May, June and July, and it just wasn't there," Loving said. "We've already missed the growing season, so even if we had 6 inches of rain, anything that needed to grow has already died." Isaac brought as much as 3 inches of rain to parts of Missouri and Illinois, but many of those areas remain far drier than usual. In southeastern Illinois, more than 29 inches normally arrive by now - this year, it's fewer than 17.

April Adkison, who raises livestock and vegetables near Owensville, Mo., said Isaac's slow, steady rain helped her pastures "kind of wake up" and start regrowing. The rain also allayed her fears of wells running dry on her farm in eastern central Missouri. The storm arrived early Friday morning and didn't let up until Sunday afternoon. "It couldn't have been a better rain," she said.

Will Spargo, who grows rice, corn and soybeans in Naylor, Mo., said the rain was a mixed blessing. It helped the soybeans - he won't have to irrigate them for a week, cutting his costs. "But at the same time, it blew a little rice down," he said.

USA TODAY

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