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Rain offers relief from drought conditions in Minot area

Relief for very dry region

Kim Fundingsland/MDN Rain that fell during the early morning hours Friday was welcomed by a region that has been mired in extreme drought conditions. Rainfall totals varied in the Minot area with many reports exceeding an inch of much needed moisture. This photograph was taken near the intersection of West University Avenue and 8th Street NW in Minot.

“I haven’t seen that much rain for so long I’m doing a double-take.”

That was Blaine Kotasek’s response to The Minot Daily News after seeing an 1.25 inches of rain in his rain gauge. Kotasek farms north of Minot, well within an area declared as being in “extreme” drought by the U.S. Drought Monitor.

“I’m just grateful we got what we did,” added Kotasek. “After that hot weekend I think things were drying up.”

Kotasek was referring to canola and flax. He also planted some acres of wheat which he said came up “really spotty.”

“Kind of like in two different stages. We’ll see if this rain perks it up,” said Kotasek.

Official rainfall totals included .80 at the North Central Research Extension Station, south of Minot, .64 at the Minot International Airport, and .72 at Minot Air Force Base. However, many rain gauges in the Minot area showed about 1.25 inches of rain from the system that passed through the region in the early morning hours Friday.

About 12 miles southwest of Minot a farmer who asked not to be named reported .85 in his rain gauge on ground that had seen less than an inch of moisture since the final snowfall this past spring. He grows wheat, soybeans, and canola.

“The wheat came up uneven because it was so dry. The canola came up in low spots but the rest was short. Everybody needed this rain. This was a good start. As my dad used to say, ‘We’ll take what we can get.'”

Some areas in the western part of the state received a deluge, accompanied by strong winds. Rainfall reports included 4.47 inches south of Noonan, 3.69 at Ray, 3.18 at Bowbells and 2.93 near Tioga. Gauges in the Lake Metigoshe area averaged about 2 inches. Peak winds included 93 miles per hour at Williston, 70 mph at Beulah, 65 mph at Tioga, and 60 mph at Minot AFB.

Rain fell in McHenry County, which was one of the driest counties in the state. Totals included an inch of rain five miles of Willow City to reports of 1.25 inches north of Willow City.

“I had to get up and enjoy the rain,” said David Medalen, a retired farmer who lives in the Willow City area. “I got exactly one inch of rain, which is probably the most I’ve got in two years. It’s been terribly dry. We had 18-hundredths in April and 34-hundredths in May. We hadn’t gotten anything. Absolutely nothing.”

Medalen said he had water standing in his driveway Friday morning, something he hadn’t seen for over a year. He said early wheat “is going to almost nothing” and that many crops in McHenry County never came up at all.

“I’ve never seen anything like it for this time of year. I remember ’61 and ’88 when the crops came up and then burned out,” remarked Medalen.

The rain received early Friday may be enough to kick-start some crops but much of McHenry County is cattle country where green pastures are vital to ranchers.

“Our pastures are absolutely brown, not even green,” said Medalen. “My alfalfa is probably four inches tall and it should be a foot and a half.”

Medalen said pastures of native grasses will respond to rainfall despite their brown appearance.

“The native grasses will grow anytime it rains,” explained Medalen. “Those with brome grasses, planted grasses, crested wheat grass – they are done. They won’t do anything.”

Nevertheless, the rain brings needed relief to a parched region that has been mired in drought for nearly a year. It also raises the spirits of growers and ranchers alike, even if just for a while. Long-range weather outlooks do not contain much optimism, calling for warmer than usual temperatures and less than normal rainfall though August.

Friday’s .80 of rain south of the city brings the total for the month of June to 0.93 inches. Average for the month is 3.58. Current short-term forecasts favor a probability of below-normal precipitation for the next two weeks.

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