15 percent of Indiana listed in moderate drought

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Abnormally dry conditions cover half of Indiana, with 15 percent of the state officially in a moderate drought, and weather experts don't believe the rain that's expected the next few days will bring significant relief.

The new U.S. Drought Monitor map released Thursday shows that the abnormally dry area has grown to 49.5 percent, up from 40.7 percent a week earlier. During that time, less than 1 percent of the state was classified to be in a moderate drought.

Overall, 33 counties in northeastern Indiana and 19 in the southwestern part of the state are abnormally dry. Of those, 11 northeastern Indiana counties and seven southwestern ones are experiencing moderate drought.

Weather Service meteorologist Nick Greenawalt said much of northern Indiana is expecting about an inch of rain through Friday. He said that will bring some immediate relief, but won't last long unless more rain follows.

"If we get back into another dry pattern, it's really not going to make much of a dent," he said.

Associate state climatologist Ken Scheeringa agreed.

"That's not going to be enough. An inch is going to be used up pretty quickly," Scheeringa said. "It will give us a short-term reprieve, but is definitely not a long-term fix."

That's because it's been one of the driest springs on record in some areas of northern Indiana. As of midday Thursday, Fort Wayne had received 5.0 inches of rain this spring, less than the record of 5.07 inches set in 1958. The city received just 0.81 inches of rain in May.

South Bend has received 5.4 inches of rain since March 1, and Evansville 5.92 inches.

Indianapolis isn't in the abnormally dry area. It has received 10.06 inches of rain — 2.2 inches below normal.

Valparaiso has received 5.63 inches of rain, which is 4.08 inches below normal.

Purdue University agriculture experts report some of the corn and soybean crops planted early in the state are already showing signs of drought stress, while vegetables that are established and well-irrigated are thriving.

The heat is accelerating the ripening of blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and blackberries, and irrigated watermelon and cantaloupe crops are growing rapidly. But melon growers who do not irrigate will need water soon for the plants to survive.

Scheeringa said there isn't much relief in sight, with temperatures expected to rise again next week.

"We could use an inch to an inch and a half to keep up with the evaporation that we're seeing. And with the forecasts, that's just not going to happen," he said.

Above normal temperatures and dry weather are expected to last at least two weeks, Scheeringa said.

"So it's going to be awhile before we have any hopes of catching up," he said.

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