Janesville47.9°

Is it dry enough for you?

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JAMES P. LEUTE
June 19, 2012
— Curling corn and a receding river.

Rock County is experiencing one of its driest Junes in 64 years, and the prospect for change—at least in the next week—appears slim.


That's translating into signs of stress in farm fields, particularly those with light soils, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported in its most recent report on crop progress in Wisconsin.


The report, released a week ago, indicates that 69 percent of farmers surveyed in the Wisconsin region that includes Rock and Walworth counties say their fields are either short or very short on moisture.


Statewide, 56 percent said they need rain.


"In need of rain quite badly," one Walworth County producer said in the report. "Corn was curling over the weekend … about one inch of rain over the last month."


Through Sunday, Janesville has received only 0.37 of an inch of rain in June. That's nearly four inches behind the typical total for the month.


Since March 1, the Janesville area has received about 54 percent of its typical precipitation.


The USDA is expected to issue an updated report today, but it's unlikely that Saturday morning's rain was sufficient to change many producers' perspectives on the lack of precipitation.


Still, the USDA reported that unseasonably high temperatures have crops running two or three weeks ahead of schedule in many parts of the state.


If brown lawns and stressed farm fields aren't a strong indication of the dry stretch, take a look at the Rock River.


Water is trickling rather than pouring over the Centerway Dam. Farther to the south, a massive mud flat extends from the Monterey Rock.


At Afton, the Rock River measured 2.92 feet on Monday.


Remember this week in June 2008?


The river at the Afton gauge crested at 13.51, it's all-time high.


The current level at Afton is approaching the second- and third-lowest readings, which were recorded in 2003 and 2005. Previous to that, the low-water mark at Afton was in 1934 at 0.09 feet, which translates into about one inch.


In its most recent U.S. Drought Monitor, the National Weather Service has classified the portion of southern Wisconsin from around Dodgeville east to Janesville, Whitewater, Waukesha, Milwaukee, Racine and Kenosha as "abnormally dry."


Morgan Brooks, a meteorologist with the service, said the Janesville area could get rain Wednesday afternoon and into Thursday as a cold front moves through. Smaller chances for precipitation are forecast for Friday into Saturday.


Rock is one of 19 counties in southern Wisconsin where the state's Department of Natural Resources has deemed the danger of fire as "high."


A high risk indicates dangerous conditions in which fires can start readily from a match or sparks and spread quickly. The DNR said burning is not recommended.


Janesville Fire Chief Jim Jensen said his department hasn't responded to any significant fires as a result of the dry conditions.


"We have had a few small things along sides of roads and in landscaping mulch, which is very dry," Jensen said.


"At some point, if we don't get any rain, it will become more of a concern, particularly as the fireworks season comes upon us. That could create some issues."


Jensen said an outright ban on the use of fireworks is not likely "because the majority of them are illegal fireworks to begin with.


"How effective would it be to tell people not to use them because of fire concerns when the majority of them are illegal?"


For the remainder of June, July and August, Brooks said predication models are not much help when it comes to precipitation levels in the Janesville area.


The weather service's Climate Prediction Center indicates that there are equal chances that the area will see above normal, normal or below normal precipitation.



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