SPRINGFIELD -- Sixteen of Illinois' 102 counties are experiencing severe drought after a summer of hot temperatures and little rain, according to the agency that tracks the country's drought conditions.
The U.S. Drought Monitor reclassified the drought conditions in 16 central Illinois counties as "severe" in its most recent drought map, which was posted Tuesday.
"Basically, all that heat we had in July produced a flash drought," Chris Geelhart, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Lincoln, told The State Journal-Register for a story published Wednesday (http://bit.ly/ncGgcP ).
The worst conditions are from Macomb through Springfield to Decatur, Geelhart said. There have been reports of crop damage, voluntary water restrictions and wells running low or dry.
"It rapidly dried out what moisture there was from earlier this year. The storms have that have formed have been hit and miss," Geelhart said.
Springfield saw 0.25 inches of rain in August, 2.88 inches below normal. It was the second-driest August on record. Decatur saw 0.01 inches of rain during August. Recently the city has asked citizens to take steps to conserve water.
The forecast doesn't promise relief, with little rain and temperatures in the mid-to-upper 90s into the weekend.
The U.S. Drought Monitor's definition of "severe drought" includes "crop or pasture losses likely; fire risk very high; water shortages common; water restrictions imposed."
The counties in "severe drought" conditions are: Cass, Christian, De Witt, Douglas, Fulton, Logan, Macon, Mason, Menard, Morgan, Moultrie, Piatt, Sangamon, Schuyler, Scott and Tazewell. Thirteen Illinois counties meet the criteria for "moderate drought" and another six are rated as "abnormally dry."
Hot, dry weather is cutting early corn yields and soybean yields will suffer if more rain doesn't fall, Illinois farming experts said.
Rains just don't seem to be making their way to the area, said farmer Tom Ritter, who has 2,000 acres near Blue Mound.
"I'm afraid any showers will dissipate," he said. "It seems like it gets about to Jacksonville and just evaporates."
Carrie Winkelmann's family farms 2,000 acres about 25 miles northwest of Springfield. Winkelmann is an Illinois Farm Bureau crop watcher for Menard County. More rain could benefit soybeans, she said, but it's too late for the corn crop.
"The corn is toast," Winkelmann said.
Information from: The State Journal-Register, http://www.sj-r.com