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Double shot of heavy rains ends dry spell

FARGO -- Brown lawns abruptly turned a lush green after back-to-back thunderstorms over the weekend dumped heavy rain and ended a stubborn dry spell that had parched the southern Red River Valley.

North Dakota

FARGO -- Brown lawns abruptly turned a lush green after back-to-back thunderstorms over the weekend dumped heavy rain and ended a stubborn dry spell that had parched the southern Red River Valley.

As of Monday afternoon, Fargo had received 3.01 inches of rain since Saturday, a total that was fairly typical in the southern valley and the heaviest dose of rain in that area so far this spring and summer.

“You’re starting to catch up,” said Bill Barrett, a meteorological technician with the National Weather Service in Grand Forks.

But as often happens with thunderstorms, the intensity of downbursts varied considerably.

“Most rainfall really concentrated in the southeastern part of the state, which is good news since those areas were in severe drought” said Adnan Akyuz, the North Dakota state climatologist.

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Before the weekend, eastern Cass County was classified as abnormally dry, and neighboring Richland County was a mix of abnormally dry, moderate drought or severe drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

The double-shot of heavy rain helped the area catch up on much-needed moisture.

From the start of June to Monday morning, Fargo had received 4.53 inches of rain, Akyuz said. That compares to the 5.07 inches considered normal over that same stretch of time.

Similarly, since the growing season began, Fargo had received 8.05 inches, 1.19 inches below the 9.24 inches considered normal, he said.

The recent downpours sent the Red River in Fargo up a foot, from 14 feet to 15 feet, later receding to a bit below 15 feet, still well within its banks. Minor flood stage is 18 feet.

“It has been dry and, unfortunately, the rain events came back to back, almost at the same time,” Akyuz added. “I’m not saying it’s too little, too late.”

The storm system that delivered the rain was widespread, a critical ingredient in helping to bust the drought or abnormally dry conditions.

“Once it starts getting dry, it is really hard to break the pattern,” Akyuz said. Dry soil tends to be associated with high pressure, which deflects storms.

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Once soils and plants soak up moisture, however, a feedback loop can begin, with the water vapor given off by plants “breathing” through evapotranspiration available to help trigger rains.

As a result, now that the area’s moisture bank has been restocked, the dry spell likely has been interrupted and will be followed for a time with wetter weather, Akyuz said.

In fact, rains that fell Saturday might have helped to intensify the rains that fell Sunday and Monday, Barrett said.

“Overall, this was rain that was needed,” he said.

Late Monday afternoon, the National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning for southern Clay County and northern Wilkin County. The warning was prompted by heavy rains in the area, with additional rains of 1 to 3 inches possible, likely causing streams and creeks to rise, flooding low-lying country roads and farmland.

Still, although the rains turned parched lawns green and replenished subsoil moisture, the rain might be too late for crops that wilted in drought conditions, Akyuz said. Even if that turns out to be the case, he added, the wetter soils should help with next year’s crop.

Related Topics: DROUGHT
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