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  Sunday January 25th, 2015    

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Drought over, now what? (06/09/2013)
By Sarah Squires

For months we prayed for rain.

By March, the potential for severe drought conditions was high, after a thaw in January followed by low temperatures created a hard, concrete-like frost on topsoils. That dense layer of soil caused any moisture from a quick melt or from heavy rainfall to run off into streams and rivers, rather than filtering into the water table. National forecasters said that under the best conditions — a slow snow melt and light, steady rain — we might hope for a "moderate drought" by summer.

"All that prayer for rain last fall — it's all coming true at once," said Mike Welvaert, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in La Crosse. This spring has been the wettest on record since 1893, when precipitation levels began being officially recorded, turning concerns about drought into concerns about the potential for floods.

In the month of May alone, Altura received 12.71 inches of rain, Winona saw between 11 inches and 11.5 inches of precipitation, and Grand Meadow got a whopping 14.64 inches. "That's typically [the amount of rain we would get] in a whole summer," said Welvaert, who explained that usually, these areas average around 3.5 inches of precipitation per month.

Area streams and rivers have swelled to fairly high levels, said Welvaert, which could produce floods if the heavy rain continues. "We're definitely susceptible if we get enough rainfall," he said. "The weather pattern that we're kind of stuck on right now is not really showing any signs of changing that much. We're just stuck in a bad weather pattern right now."

Welvaert spoke with the Winona Post on Thursday, and said that while Friday and Saturday might show some sunshine and dry weather, another rainy weather pattern was right on its heels.

As June turns to July, Welvaert said the weather could change, the sun could come out, the wet fields may begin to dry and the swollen streams may begin to recede into their banks. A potential "La Niña" weather pattern, which typically brings hot, dry conditions, may be on the horizon for the summer months, but the weather never has guarantees.

For now, local residents will continue to keep fingers crossed, wishing for a bit of a dry spell to get area farms — and the spring season — back on track.



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