PrattTribune - Pratt, KS
  • Rain gauge empty in January

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  • If the weather forecast was correct, it should be snowing in Pratt Tuesday with a possibility of anywhere from three to eight inches of accumulation.
    That would be three to eight inches more precipitation than Pratt got during the entire month of January when the measurable precipitation in the city of Pratt was zero, said Mary Knapp, state climatologist.
    Pratt seemed to be in a little hole that precipitation avoided for the entire month. But the rest of the county didn't do much better. At other reporting stations, moisture amounts ranged from 0.06 inches to 0.21 inches.
    Normally Pratt would get about 0.64 inches of rain in January but it was very dry and moisture amounts were about half to one-third what they normally would receive.
    State wide, January moisture was only about 25 percent of what it normally should be.
    December wasn't much better. Pratt registered 0.45 inches when the normal average is 0.94 inches.
    While these numbers are low, at least it wasn't during a month the normally has a high moisture content.
    "If we're going to be dry, January is the best month to do it," Knapp said.
    December, January and February are not typically high precipitation months. In February, the average precipitation in Pratt is just 0.9 inches. December is about the same. So for December, January and February, 2.4 inches is the expected total of precipitation. Any amount more than that is a benefit.
    Now if Pratt didn't get any rain in March, that would be a much bigger deal. The average precipitation in Pratt for March is 2.3 inches. Losing 0.6 inches of precipitation in January would have a smaller impact on the wheat crop than if it didn't rain in March when the wheat is coming out of dormancy and is using up ground moisture, Knapp said.
    The lack of moisture in January caused another problem: blowing dust. Some wheat fields were planted very late in 2013 and didn't get tall enough to provide protection from the wind. Plants that are better developed will protect the crown and root system, said Mark Ploger, Pratt County Extension agent.
    They will also provide better protection from blowing sand that can also cause problems for livestock.
    Farmers who planted early in 2013 got an unexpected amount of moisture in October of 3.17 inches when the normal precipitation is 2.26 inches. Those fields are thriving and looking good.
    While some winterkill is visible with brown tips on the wheat plant, with good moisture it will not hurt the plant and new tillers will come on as the weather warms up.
    For now, however, with little precipitation in the last few months and the area coming out of an extended drought, more precipitation is needed to help recharge the subsoil moisture.
    In cold weather, wheat stays dormant so the moisture soaks into the ground and is very beneficial.
    Page 2 of 2 - The state has not completely recovered from the drought. For every year of a drought, it takes three years to recover, Ploger said.
    Snow is predicted and will likely be falling most of the day Tuesday plus more predicted later in the week. It will provide both moisture and ground cover to help prevent fields from blowing.
    It will also provide a good drink for trees and bushes.
    It won't be enough to break the drought, but it will be a big help, Ploger said.
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