Drought conditions persist in Iowa

By Joseph L. Murphy

Iowa has seen its share of snow over the past 10 days. That snow has snarled traffic, stopped commerce and caused headaches across the state. One thing it hasn’t done according to weather experts is help with the drought.

The stream that flows under the Cedar Bridge near Winterset has been at a trickle for a majority of the summer. (Photo: Joseph L. Murphy)

The stream that flows under the Cedar Bridge near Winterset has been at a trickle for a majority of the summer. (Photo: Joseph L. Murphy)

Looking at precipitation amounts across the state and comparing it to the most recent USDA drought monitor, you can see a trend that confirms areas of the state are still in a dry pattern. One of the hardest hit areas according to precipitation data is Northwest Iowa.

“Although this winter’s precipitation has been near or even above normal across the southeast half of Iowa, conditions have remained below normal across the northwest half of the state. There are no significant indications that Iowa’s drought–especially across northwest portions of the state–will end in the coming spring months,” said Jeff Zogg, Senior Hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Des Moines.

Even though much of the state has received near normal snowfall this winter, a significant impact on the dryness is not expected due to the snowfall alone because of the snow’s relatively low water content. “To make a significant impact on the drought, we need several months of near to above normal rainfall beginning with this spring season,” Zogg added.

Mike VerSteeg, a farmer from Inwood is experiencing the drought in northwest Iowa first-hand. He has watched storms pass to the north and south of his farm with only small amounts of rain and snow falling in his area.

“We’re right on the edge,” VerSteeg said. “It makes a guy nervous going into this year with depleted subsoil moisture. We’ve had some snow and rain over the past month, but the problem is the ground is frozen, so it is all ending up in the creeks. I wish there was a way to keep some of it for spring.”

VerSteeg was happy with the performance of his crops considering the lack of rain last year. He recorded an average soybean harvest and slightly below average corn harvest. Looking forward, he plans on planting the same or slightly higher populations on his no-till and strip-till crop ground, while being hopeful that the moisture comes.

“If you plan for a drought, you’re going to get a drought,” VerSteeg said. “We’ll keep things the same and pray it rains.”