October 01, 2022

Dry conditions, hot temperatures lead to a burn ban

What started as an unseasonably warm and dry June has progressed through to July and into August.

Greenfield firefighters were dispatched to a hay bale fire north of Greenfield on Friday. They requested mutual aid from departments from Fontanelle and Orient on scene before they were able to get the blaze extinguished.

A burn ban went into effect for Adair County 2 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 3. Area firefighters want the public to know that a burn ban means no burning is allowed whatsoever because it is very, very dry around the area.

“For the safety of all local citizens, it’s important that everyone is obeying the burn ban,” said Fontanelle assistant fire chief Tyson Sickles. “The stakes are too high for people to not follow all the guidelines.”

Iowa Department of Natural Resources reports a statewide average precipitation of 3.39 inches, or 0.78 inches below normal. This consistent dryness, especially in northwest and southern Iowa has resulted in further expansion of drought conditions across the state.

The driest conditions were found across southern Iowa, with some locations four inches short of rainfall during July. This lack of rain resulted in an expansion of drought conditions into all or parts of 24 counties across the southern part of the state. This lack of rain was accompanied by temperatures that were slightly above normal for the month. Streamflow in western Iowa is dropping, and concern for shallow groundwater availability is increasing in some areas.

The latest drought monitor reports show parts of northwest Iowa in extreme or severe drought. As of Thursday, Adair County has been placed in the moderate drought category along with Union, Madison, Clarke and Adams counties.

Moderate drought levels result in soybeans aborting pods, corn test weights struggling, brown grass, pond levels declining, more grass fires and burn bans issued.

June started with more than 70% of Iowa free of dryness or drought. By the start of July, almost 50% of Iowa was designated as abnormally dry or in a drought. The latest reports show that number has jumped to 60%.

Iowa DNR reports slightly above-normal monthly temperatures observed across Iowa’s reporting stations in July with positive departures of up to a degree over much of the state. The statewide average temperature was 74.3 degrees, 0.9 degree warmer than normal. Several stations reported the month’s high temperature of 100 degrees on the 5th and 23rd - on average 15 degrees above normal.

The August US Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) report that indicates that topsoil and subsoil moisture levels have declined in the state over the last month. In early July, only about one-third of topsoil and subsoil was rated as short or very short of moisture. By the end of July, these ratings had risen to over 45%. Across western and southern Iowa 65 to 70% of subsoil and topsoil is now rated as short to very short of moisture.

Fontanelle area farmer Billy Baudler said he’s beginning to see the stress that the dryness has put on both crops and pastures, however he’s not in panic mode yet.

“I don’t think it’s a failure yet. If you didn’t get hit by the big hailstorm in early June I think our early season development for the corn and beans was beneficial,” Baudler said. “It has kind of cooled off this week, so if we could catch some moisture soon I think we could still have an OK crop. It has certainly taken the top off the corn. I’ve also seen some corrals set up in pastures with guys moving cows off pasture, so they’re really burnt up.”

Cheyenne Roche

CHEYENNE ROCHE

Originally from Wisconsin, Cheyenne has a journalism and political science degree from UW-Eau Claire and a passion for reading and learning. She lives in Creston with her husband and their two little dogs.