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Archive for Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Rains fail to relieve drought in N.W. Kansas

September 22, 2004

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— Summer brought adequate rain to much of Kansas, but drought conditions persist in northwest Kansas, meaning continued problems for farmers bedeviled by the weather for several years.

Fifteen counties remain under a drought warning or watch, and rainfall in the far northwest corner remained below average through August. Officials said the drought persisted there but not in other parts of the state, partly because the area was coming off several dry years.

Mike Brown, who farms 5,000 acres southwest of Colby, said Tuesday that he'd lost almost all his corn crop and might have to replant part of his fledgling wheat crop.

"The hot, windy weather the last couple of weeks has been tough on the corn," Brown said during a telephone interview. "It's been pretty devastating, the last three years."

In June, Gov. Kathleen Sebelius had declared an emergency in the western third of the state and put 26 other counties under a drought warning or watch. Then, earlier this month, Sebelius ended drought warnings, watches and emergencies for most counties.

However, Gove, Graham, Logan, Norton, Phillips, Rooks, Smith, Trego and Wallace counties remained under a drought watch, in which residents are encouraged to conserve water. Also, Cheyenne, Decatur, Rawlins, Sheridan, Sherman and Thomas counties remained under a drought warning, in which communities are encouraged to limit water use.

The northwest corner received an average of about 14.1 inches of rain through August, but the normal amount is about 17.5 inches, said Mary Knapp, state climatologist at Kansas State University.

Furthermore, moisture has been lacking over a couple of years. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Assn. estimated this week that some northwest Kansas counties needed more than 6 additional inches of rain to achieve normal levels of moisture. Knapp noted that October, November and December typically were dry months.

Mike Akulow, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Topeka, said dry conditions were likely to remain in northwest Kansas for at least a month or two.

"They started in a real big hole," he said.

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