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August heat fades, drought remains

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A hot, dry August gave way to a cooler but still dry September as drought conditions continued across the region last month.

Just over 2.1 inches of rain fell on the Red Wing area in September, boosted by a late-month rainstorm Saturday that brought an additional half inch.

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The monthly rainfall total was up from the 1.6 inches of rain in August, but fell short of a 30-year average of 3.48 inches, according to National Weather Service data.

Goodhue County experienced moderate drought throughout much of the month, with a small strip along the Mississippi River experiencing severe drought conditions, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

A couple mid-month storms also brought some relief — including nearly an inch of rain between Sept. 14 and 15 — but the damage to this year’s corn and soybean crops had already been done.

“It shows that Mother Nature is still in control,” said Cory Christensen, executive director of the county’s Farm Service Agency office.

The dry weather has been especially harmful to crops this year because of a late spring that delayed the growing season by as much as a month, he said. A dry fall is typically preferred when it comes time to harvest, but not when crops are still maturing.

Half of all corn and soybean crops in the state were listed in fair condition or worse as of Sept. 22, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Although Saturday’s rain won’t do much to help fields this season, some late-season moisture could help recharge the soil for next year, Christensen said. “A nice, slow rain would be nice.”

Weather also plays a major role in determining when and how vibrantly plants begin to change color in the fall, and severe drought can keep colors muted, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

So far the sumacs at Frontenac State Park are changing into their red fall colors, and aspen, basswood and cottonwood trees are in the late stages of transition as well, according to the park’s fall colors update.

A departure from the oppressive stretch of 90-degree days at the end of August, the monthly average temperature for September settled to a cool 65.4 degrees. By month’s end, nightly lows dipped briefly into the low 40s.

Temperatures are expected to continue dropping as the Midwest heads into what is expected to be a bitterly cold winter, according to Old Farmer’s Almanac forecasts.

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Michael Brun
Michael Brun is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls journalism program. He has worked for the Republican Eagle since March 2013, covering county government, health and local events. 
(651) 301-7875
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