Drought in Franklin County Worsens Despite Rain - The Missourian: News

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Drought in Franklin County Worsens Despite Rain

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Posted: Thursday, July 12, 2012 6:00 pm | Updated: 2:47 pm, Thu Oct 24, 2013.

We’ll take the rain.

But not the damage.

Rainfall around the area over the weekend left people wondering what in the world was falling from the sky since it had been three weeks since the last measurable precipitation.

Downtown Washington measured 0.20 of an inch during Sunday night’s brief downpour, the first rain measured since June 17, when all of June’s rain (1.4 inches) fell in one shower.

More rain fell in other areas of the county, including Union, where wind damage wreaked havoc at the Franklin County Fair.

The rain Sunday night brought the Downtown Washington yearly total up to 20.41 inches while continuing one of the driest stretches in some time.

How dry has it been?

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, a study produced in a partnership through the NOAA/NWS, U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Drought Migration Center, all of Franklin County is listed as being in severe (D2) drought. It’s a typical reading for the state, where only small parts of three counties in the western part of the state are not in some form of drought. On the other side, the bootheel and surrounding areas are in extreme (D3) drought. By the Palmer Drought Index, it would take many such showers as Washington experienced Sunday night to bring the immediate area out of drought. It’s estimated that it would take at least 3-6 inches of rain to erase the drought. And that’s not taking soil moisture deficits into account, either.

Recent Trends

The year didn’t start dry.

Precipitation in January was 3.88 inches, making this the wettest January since 4.21 inches of precipitation was measured in 2007.

The trend toward repeating 2007, a year in which 39.27 inches of precipitation was measured, continued in February. A total of 2.81 inches of precipitation was measured making it the driest February since 2007, but still above the normal for that month, 2.45 inches.

March also was above average with 4.01 inches of precipitation measured. The normal is 3.53 inches.

And, in April, a total of 5.72 inches of precipitation was measured in Downtown Washington. The average for that month is 3.95 inches.

But that’s when the rain stopped.

Downtown Washington experienced 2.39 inches of rain in May, making it the driest May since 0.77 of an inch was measured in 2005. The average for that month is 4.89 inches of precipitation.

In June, all of the rain fell on one day, Sunday, June 17. The 1.4 inches of rain made 2012 the driest June since 1992, when 1.12 inches of precipitation was measured.

And, at 0.2 of an inch measured so far in July, Downtown Washington is on course for another arid month. Right now, the driest July on record is 1991, when 0.72 of an inch of precipitation was measured.

There is some good news though. With Sunday night’s rain, Downtown Washington now has received more precipitation than the entire calendar year of 1976. That’s the historic low since records were first kept in 1951 and a total of 20.22 inches of precipitation was measured for the entire year.

Should the precipitation resume at the rate it fell through July 10, the area still is on track for 38.42 inches of precipitation this year. That still would be below the local average, 42.67 inches, and well below the totals for recent years, but would be more in line with historic figures. It would be similar to 1999, when 38.12 inches of precipitation was measured.

It also should be noted that extremely wet years have been a recent trend. Through 1993, the local average was 39.55 inches of precipitation per year.

Here’s how other recent years stack up:

• 2011 — 57.8 inches;

• 2010 — 59.48 inches;

• 2009 — 73.13 inches;

• 2008 — 76.81 inches; and

• 2007 — 39.27 inches.

Streams, Temperature

Local streams could use the rain as well. In Franklin County, the Bourbeuse River was measured at “much below normal” at under the 10th percentile of historic levels.

Despite a spike to 3.63 following the weekend rain, the river had dropped back to 0.89 feet as of 8 a.m. Tuesday.

The Meramec River was measured at 2.2 feet near Sullivan Tuesday at 8 a.m. At the same time, it was charted at -1.47 feet near Pacific.

Even the Missouri River at Washington was down to 3.16 feet as of 8 a.m. Tuesday.

It’s also been the warmest year on record, according to figures kept in St. Louis since 1874. The average temperature has been 58.9 degrees, surpassing the previous highest average of 57 degrees set in 1921.

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