Recent snow, rain is good news for Illinois farmers
By STEFANO ESPOSITO Staff Reporteremail@example.com March 11, 2013 4:42PM
Jerome Williams and his neighbor Rodney Hewitt wear boots to walk around their flooded property on 138th Street in Dolton, Ill., Monday, March 11, 2013. | Brian Jackson~Sun-Times
Updated: April 13, 2013 6:26AM
If it feels like it has been particularly soggy this year, you’re not imagining things.
Between snow and rain, Chicago — and much of the rest of Illinois — has doubled the amount of precipitation it typically experiences in any given year by March 10.
That’s good news for the state’s farmers, getting set to plant corn in early April; but not so good for folks near swelling rivers — or one neighborhood in Dolton Monday, where the rains forced some evacuations.
“It’s a mess,” said Valeria Stubbs, 54, who helped her aunt move out of a Dolton home. “They’ve got three feet of water in the basement, [it’s] surrounding the house. There’s debris everywhere.”
Typically, Chicago receives about 4.3 inches of precipitation by this point in the year, according to the National Weather Service. This year, the total is 8.18 inches at O’Hare Airport, the weather service reported. The story is similar in the southwestern suburb of Romeoville, where the weather service recorded 7.8 inches, compared with the typical 4.6 inches. In Rockford, there’s been 7.8 inches of the wet stuff this year — compared with a typical 4.6 inches for the year to date.
High temperatures for the next few days are expected to hover near or slightly below the average for this time of year — in the lower 40s. In case you’ve forgotten, we shattered all kinds of records in mid-March, with highs hitting 80 degrees and hotter for eight days last year. It was perhaps a harbinger of things to come, with a ferociously hot and dry summer that left crops baking and shriveling in fields in Illinois and across much of the United States.
John Hawkins, an Illinois Farm Bureau spokesman, is cautiously optimistic about this year’s crops — in part because of the heavy snow and rains in 2013.
“We had OK soil moisture [last year] but we didn’t have a super abundance, and so when we got into the middle of the summer and we had high heat and absolutely no rain, it was like taking a straw and sucking all of the moisture out of the ground,” Hawkins said.
Nationally, climatologists caution that this year’s moisture doesn’t signal the end of the stubborn drought still gripping more than half the continental United States. What happens in the next couple of months, they say, could be more telling. That’s when the frozen ground will thaw and water that had been running off into the Mississippi or Missouri Rivers and their tributaries could sink in.
For his part, Hawkins is predicting a decent crop of corn and soy beans this year.
“I’m not looking for any bumper crop, but if I were a betting man, I would be average or close to average ...,” Hawkins said.