Thunderstorms finally bring much needed rain to area

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June is typically the wettest month of the year, but not this time. The month ended with just 1.92 inches of rain, 2.47 inches below the month’s average of 4.39 inches.

The month also saw slightly above average temperatures with five days seeing temperatures between 90 and 94 degrees. The months highs averaged 80.8 degrees, 1.9 degrees above average while lows averaged 56.7 degrees, right on their average.

Already the combination of warm temperatures and a shortage of rain are showing on the landscape. A drive through the countryside shows that every field with an irrigator is pumping water onto crops. Lawns are turning brown.

While many areas of the state saw substantial June rainfall as thunderstorms passed through Minnesota, west central counties were consistently missed. As a result, drought conditions are spreading.

The western third of Swift County is now in a Drought 1 (D1) or moderate stage, according to the June 28 U.S. Drought Monitor report. The eastern two-thirds are rated abnormally dry.

All of Stevens, Big Stone, and Traverse counties are also in the D1 stage. Most of Grant County is in the D1 stage. Only the western edge of Pope County is in the D1, but the rest of the county is abnormally dry. Just the northwestern corner of Chippewa County is in the abnormally dry area.

Across the border in eastern South Dakota D2, or severe drought, conditions are developing.

Perhaps, the two thunderstorms that rolled through west central Minnesota early Tuesday morning brought a change in the pattern. They certainly brought badly needed rain to the area.

Shortly after 11 p.m. Monday, the National Weather Service issued a severe thunderstorm warning for eastern Stevens County and western Swift County as a line of storms moved eastward. Shortly after midnight the storms passed through the Benson area, bringing a pyrotechnic display of lightening, strong winds and heavy rain. By 1 a.m. Tuesday the storms had moved through the Kerkhoven area. Much of southern Pope County also benefited from the storm.

A second line of thunderstorms formed over the same area four hours later bringing another shot of rain to most of west central Minnesota.

For the first six months of 2016, there is a deficit of 2.47 inches of precipitation in the area. So far, there has been 11.31 inches of precipitation compared to the average of 13.23 inches.

Another sign of how dry it has been getting is the NWS recording of the Chippewa River’s height at the U.S. 12 bridge west of Benson. Last year at this time, the Chippewa River was at 8.76 feet; it is currently at close to 7.39 feet, nearly 1.4 feet lower.

July 4th the Earth reached aphelion, the farthest point from the sun in its orbit, according to the Univesity of Minnesota’s Starwatch column written by Deane Morrison. “At that moment we’ll be 94.5 million miles from the sun and traveling at our lowest speed,” she writes.

July’s full moon arrives at 5:56 p.m. on the 19th. It rises less than three hours later, so it will look very round and beautiful. Algonquin Indians named this the full thunder moon, as thunderstorms are now so frequent, she adds.

Pictured: The wheat is already starting to turn color in the area as crops mature. Forget knee-high by the Fourth, much of the corn crop was nearly shoulder height. However, drought conditions were spreading in the area as June ended.


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