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Drought inching along; spring vital

Drought inching along; spring vital

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 BLOOMINGTON - Snow and rain in December raised the water level at Lake Bloomington about 6 or 7 inches but has done little - if anything - to help the drought in Central Illinois.

"We haven't really had that much (precipitation) and we've had dry snows," said Steve Hilberg, director of the Midwest Regional Climate Center at the Illinois State Water Survey in Champaign. "Without above normal precipitation, it won't make much of a dent."

If Central Illinois has an average winter, there's not much of a chance that will happen.

"January and February are usually dry," Hilberg said. "January is (Bloomington's) driest month of the year."

The Twin Cities typically gets slightly over 1.5 inches of precipitation the first month of the year. February's normal is only slightly above that at 1.67 inches.

March will be the key, Hilberg said.

"We want at least normal precipitation (3 inches) going into planting season," he said.

"If there's no good rainfall in March, farmers will begin to worry."

Bloomington Water Director Craig Cummings said the inch or so of precipitation the Twin Cities has gotten has helped Lake Bloomington a little, but it's still down 11 feet.

"Even if we don't have any precipitation coming in, there's over a year's supply," Cummings said.

Bloomington has depended on Evergreen Lake for its water supply since mid-October.

"Evergreen is doing pretty good," Cummings said. "It's down 5.3 feet."

That's about the same amount the lake was expanded in 1988.

"If it rains like it did last January, the (Lake Bloomington) will fill in a day or so," he said.

In January 2005, Illinois State University recorded 6.60 inches of rain and 7.70 inches of snow. Hilberg said nothing like that is predicted in the near future.

The National Weather Service in Lincoln is forecasting a 40 percent chance of showers today and another chance of rain Sunday and Monday. It could turn to snow Monday night.

The U.S. Drought Monitor reported extreme drought conditions from Monmouth to near Peoria to Chicago. There are severe drought conditions south of that area from Rushville to near Springfield to Pontiac. Areas along Interstate 72 from Winchester to Decatur are in a moderate drought.



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