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8th wettest July rescues some N. Ind. corn fields

Associated Press Published: August 2, 2012
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — In the desolate landscape that Indiana has become, there's an oasis of green. Rain suddenly started falling two weeks ago in northern Indiana, turning what had been an arid summer into South Bend's eighth wettest July on record and salvaging some corn fields.

While the rain was too late for most traditional farms, it was right on time for some "muck" farmers who grow crops on what used to be marshlands. Muck farmers plant later and harvest later — sometimes as late as Thanksgiving — so the precipitation dovetailed with the corn crop's pollination.

"We benefitted a lot from this rain," said Joe Burkus, manager of the Martin Blads Farm in South Bend. "It was very, very beneficial."

He said the corn crop on the 3,000- acre muck farm was just developing ears when the rain began to fall on July 14. The National Weather Service reported that after no measurable rain through the first 13 days of July, South Bend received 6.48 inches of rain — 2.48 inches above normal. Two storms each dropped more than two inches.

The rest of the state wasn't as fortunate. Five cities combined— Terre Haute (0.59 inches), Indianapolis (0.83 inches), Lafayette (0.91), Bloomington (1.46) and Muncie (1.94) — had less rain than South Bend.

Indiana's drought is deepening. The U.S. Drought Monitor report released Thursday shows that the area of the state in exceptional drought, the worst category, grew from a little less than a fifth of the state to almost a quarter of the state. That parched area runs from near Terre Haute to Indianapolis and then south to the Ohio River about 30 miles east of Evansville.

Fifty-nine percent of the state is in extreme drought, the second worst category. Nearly 85 percent of the state, which includes the extreme drought section, is listed as being severe drought.

The lack of rain was exacerbated by the heat. The National Weather Service says it was the hottest July ever for Indianapolis, with an average temperature of 84 degrees. That broke the previous record of 82.8 degrees set in July 1936. The temperature topped 90 degrees on 28 days, 95 degrees 19 times and 100 degrees seven times.

South Bend wasn't the only area to receive relief from the drought. Al Shipe, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Indianapolis, said the town of English in Crawford County, about 40 miles west of Louisville, Ky., received about 10 inches of rain in July — about twice the normal amount.

"The rain was distributed fairly evenly through the month; it rained an inch or so every three to six days. Unfortunately, it's kind of hilly there, so I don't think we raise a lot of corn or soybeans down in the area," he said.

English is surrounded by the Hoosier National Forest. Judi Perez, a forest spokeswoman, said the rainfall was spotty and wasn't enough for the forest to lift its ban on campfires, charcoal grills or wood stoves. She said the ban will likely be in effect through fall.

The town of Fortville, northeast of Indianapolis, also got above average rainfall, Shipe said, receiving 6 inches of rain in July.

Back in South Bend, Burkus said the corn is developing well.

"Right now, we're thinking we're going to get a pretty good crop," he said.

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Indiana drought report: http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/DM_state.htm?IN,MW