Withering crops, flowers and shrubs. Parched, browning lawns. And almost non-stop air conditioning. They all told the tale of July's weather: hot and unusually dry.
For the month, Lawrence received just 0.63 of an inch of rain well below the average July rainfall of 4.45 inches.
That brings the total rainfall for the year to 18.49 inches, which is 3.8 inches below normal for the first seven months.
Rain did fall eight times during the month. But most showers were light, such as Wednesday's, which produced only 0.02 of an inch of precipitation.
"It was very, very dry for July," Ryan McCannon, KU weather observer, said.
A third of the city's monthly total fell on July 10, when 0.23 of an inch splattered the area. Things weren't much better in at least one other part of the county.
Walter Schwartz, a weather observer from Worden, said he recorded 0.51 of an inch of rain for the month.
Schwartz said Worden has had 16.29 inches of rain for the year, compared with the normal of 21.91 inches.
NOT ONLY was the month dry, it was hot the temperature topped 90 degrees 24 times during the month and topped 100 degrees seven times, McCannon said.
The average daily high for the month was 92 and the average low was 67, compared with a normal average high of 91.3 for July and an average low of 68.8.
The month's hottest day was July 22, when the thermometer bubbled up to 103.
The coolest morning was on July 29, when the temperature fell to 63. And the lowest high for the month was 85 on July 25.
Looking ahead to August, "it's pretty much the same story," McCannon said. "We're going to begin the month the same as we ended July, hot and dry."
TODAY'S HIGH temperature was expected to reach about 100. Friday's forecast calls for sunny skies with a high of 102. The forecast for Saturday through Monday calls for a chance of showers and thunderstorms, with highs in the 90s and lows in the 60s.
The average August high is 89.8, with the average August low 66.9. The average rainfall in August is 3.94 inches.
Garry Keeler, extension agricultural agent for the county, said the lack of rain has hurt all crops in the county, including milo, corn, soybeans, alfalfa, hay and native grass.
"It's just getting more critical every day," Keeler said. "The corn is not going to make a full crop or even an average crop. The ears aren't filled out completely."
Keeler said the drought has been statewide.
"It's worse as you go west of here," he said. "We're talking about clear into western Kansas."
EVEN IF the area got a good soaking for a couple of days, some crops are past the point of recovery, he said.
"The corn is not going to do any better than now," he said. "Some of the milo will be helped by the rains. When the leaves are burned up and rolled up on the ends, that marks the end of the crop."
Some farmers in the county with irrigated fields have been able to withstand the hot, dry weather, he said.
"The cost of irrigating is something else," he said. "But those that have it are using it. If you have it available, you use it. But most of our farmers here don't have irrigation."
He said this year's drought is probably more severe than the one during the summer of 1988.
"It's of larger magnitude. It's more like the one in 1980," Keeler said.
Keeler said the local crops would be helped by a two-day slow soaking of 2 to 2 inches of rain, followed by another rainfall a few days later.
Dennis Bejot, county extension director, said his office has received many telephone calls from people worried about their lawns and shrubs.
"They should be because that is quite an investment in the plants and trees and flowers and shrubs, and they do need to maintain them," Bejot said.
BEJOT SAID local residents should continue to make sure that their lawns, shrubs and flowers get enough water.
"If the people have not been watering, the plants are under a lot of stress," Bejot said. "We would recommend that people would give them an inch of water a week."
He said that during drought conditions, lawns will go dormant, with the upper blades turning brown.
"But you need to have enough water in the soil to keep the crowns of the grass plants alive," he said. "Usually, if people will put on an inch of water a week, that should be sufficient to keep those plants alive. We certainly recommend that people water their shrubs and their plantings around the foundations because all of those plants are stressed because of the lack of moisture."
He said the best time to water is early in the morning. If watering is done in the evening, it should be completed about an hour to 90 minutes before sundown to give the leaves of the plants time to dry off, he said. Otherwise, moisture on the leaves at night can lead to disease.