Drought and floods caused problems for farmers and set a couple of precipitation records.

It was a year of weather extremes in Pratt County. Starting with extreme dry conditions in the first quarter, the weather pattern shifted and things got wet, extremely wet, from May through October. Precipitation levels for those six months were higher than normal with four months being way over normal precipitation amounts, said Mary Knapp, state climatologist at Kansas State University.

Precipitation levels are measured at Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network automated stations across the county and state. In Pratt County, the closest is 1.6 miles south/southeast of Pratt.

The precipitation total for the year at that CoCoRaHS station was 43.58 inches. In a normal year, the total would be 27.94 inches so the area got 15.64 extra inches of precipitation in 2018.

The big precipitation months were July with 10.09 inches and September with 9.11 inches followed by October with 7.50 inches.

There have been wetter years so it didn’t break the all time record for precipitation in one year but a couple of records were set on the Labor Day flood on Sept. 3. On that day, the CoCoRaHS station received 6.58 inches and that set two records, one for the most precipitation on any Sept. 3 since records have been kept and it was also the most precipitation for any single day in September. The previous record was way back in 1906 when 4.26 inches was recorded, Knapp said.

Pratt County wasn’t the only place setting records in September. Around Kansas, CoCoRaHS stations recorded 100 daily precipitation records, six records for the month of September and two set all time records for any month.

There was also a lot of precipitation in Pratt in October with 7.50 inches recorded with 2.28 inches being the normal. While it didn’t set a record in Pratt County, 175 CoCoRaHS stations across Kansas set daily records and three stations set all time records for the month of October that was the second wettest October since 1895, Knapp said.

Things started getting extra wet in April with 4.15 inches that were 0.47 above normal. That started the above normal rainfall trend that lasted for six months. June got into the act with 5.13 inches at 0.73 above normal.

Then things really took off. July recorded 10.09 inches, a whopping 7.06 inches above normal. This saturated the ground and caused some flooding but it really set up things for the flood in September, Knapp said.

August was close to normal at 3.65 inches, only 0.28 inches above normal. But then came September with 9.11 inches, most of that on Sept. 3 at 6.58 inches, that caused extreme flooding on the Ninnescah River, Knapp said.

Flooding caused extensive damage to Lemon Park that was under water and to the Pratt County Veteran’s Memorial Lake that was overtopped. Many acres of crop land were impacted nearby.

The area continued to get more precipitation in October with 7.50 inches that was 5.22 inches above normal, Knapp said.

Then the water tap shut off. Both November, 0.56 inches (0.62 below normal) and December, 0.53 inches (0.43 below normal) were below normal. With all the moisture from May through October, it is easy to forget that 2018 started out with little or no precipitation for several months. And that was on top of dry conditions at the end of 2017.

October 2017 recorded 1.41 inches of precipitation and that was at the start of the month. In November, just 0.03 inches was recorded followed by December with 0.00 inches, Knapp said.

Things continued to stay dry in 2018 with 0.00 inches in January and 0.12 in February. These months normally have less than an inch of precipitation anyway but these amounts were extreme. For the four month period from November 2017 to Feb. 2018, just 0.15 inches of precipitation were recorded at the CoCoRaHS station south of Pratt, Knapp said.

All the precipitation caused problems for farmers. They had very little precipitation to start the year to plant spring crops then came the rains and it was too wet to plant and stayed that way. There were many delays harvesting and planting. Fall precipitation made it difficult to get in the fields to plant wheat and to harvest fall crops. Late plantings of milo and soybeans and cotton needed heat units so they could ripen but it just stayed wet, Knapp said.

When the fall rains came, they washed out some of the late planted crops and delayed replanting. Temperatures stayed cooler and that slowed down natural evaporation that helped keep the soil moist.

While things have calmed down for now, Knapp said the soil hasn’t dried out much and that could cause trouble in the spring. The ground is so saturated, that even normal rainfall amounts in the spring could lead to more flooding in 2019.