Even with some rain moving into Indiana and Ohio, both states continue to get drier, with parts of Indiana bearing the brunt of the drought.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Drought Monitor update on Thursday, a swath of west-central and southwestern Indiana fell into the worst intensity of dryness. Until last week, only a small area along the Ohio River near Evansville was in exceptional drought; now most counties from the southwestern-most tip of Indiana and extending to west-central counties are now in that stage. The rest of the state is experiencing moderate to extreme levels of drought.
“These exceptional drought conditions are the kind you see once every 50 years or longer,” said Ken Scheeringa, associate state climatologist for the Indiana State Climate Office, based at Purdue University.
Nearly all of Ohio is encompassed by moderate drought, but the western edge of the state has entered the severe category.
A high-pressure system has kept moisture from the Gulf of Mexico from entering much of the Midwest, and the same system is now generating what Scheeringa referred to as a “ring of fire” phenomenon. Thunderstorms must travel around this Midwestern high pressure system in a circular pattern, moving from Colorado northward into Minnesota, and then southeastward toward Indiana and Ohio. As a result precipitation misses the worst drought-stricken areas of Indiana.
Scheeringa said normal to slightly above-normal temperatures and rainfall were expected for parts of the Corn Belt in the coming 8-14 days, but he cautioned that it would do little more than hold drought conditions steady.
Instead, the area would need rain from a tropical storm or hurricane in the nation’s South to greatly improve drought conditions. But no such storms were in sight.
“We very likely will see drought continue into late-October,” Scheeringa said.
Purdue Extension agricultural economist Chris Hurt said that while the conditions already have taken an emotional and costly toll on the region’s field-crop farmers, livestock producers ultimately would bear some of the worst losses.
Crop insurance and high grain prices are likely to salvage incomes of crop producers who elected for coverage and those who have grain to harvest. Livestock producers, however, will be left to fight for short feed supplies - something Hurt said many couldn’t afford.
Both Purdue Extension and Ohio State Extension have compiled free, Web-based resources for dealing with drought. They are: