Isaac's rainfall eased drought in some of Midwest, report says

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LOS ANGELES — The soggy breakup of Hurricane Isaac brought some relief to parts of the drought-plagued Midwest, but other agricultural areas continue to bear the pain of a worsening climate.

The hardest-hit drought areas of the continental United States decreased slightly to 21.45 percent, down by 1.7 percentage points, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor map.

Parts of Missouri, Illinois and Indiana got some relief because of rain associated with Isaac, a slow-moving storm that hit the Louisiana coast on Aug. 28 as a Category 1 hurricane and wended its wet way across parts of the South and Midwest.

The rain came after many crops had already been harvested, but it may yet manage to improve the soybean yield. However, the rain bypassed the key corn-producing states of Nebraska and Iowa, both hard hit by drought conditions that have brought some increases in consumer prices.

Isaac was a slow-moving, especially wet storm that brought flooding to Louisiana and other parts of the region. Because the storm lingered, it dropped more than 10 inches of rain in some areas, improving the drought status in parts of Louisiana and Arkansas, according to the monitor.

The storm, downgraded from hurricane status as it moved inland, also dropped 2 to 6 inches of rainfall in many areas of Missouri, Illinois and Indiana, according to the drought survey. That resulted in improvements in at least one way drought is measured for many areas, including parts of Ohio and Indiana. In some areas, Isaac improved drought conditions in two categories of measurements.

“The improvements were based upon how well soil moisture levels responded throughout the area that received the most rain and also the favorable response of the river and streamflows, which were running at near record lows,” the weekly report noted.

Missouri, for example, saw the areas of exceptional drought fall from 35 percent to 3 percent; In Illinois, the two worst classifications of drought fell from about 70 percent to about 7 percent.

But the Plains states were less fortunate, missing the rain and having a return in some areas of the 100-degree temperatures that have scorched the region through much of the summer.

Nebraska reported that 71 percent of the state was in the higher drought classifications. In Iowa, the area in exceptional or extreme drought rose to 62 percent, up 4 percentage points.

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