Dry? Yet ahead for the year
by Gregory R. Norfleet · News · September 13, 2013

The West Branch area is holding up in a “moderate drought” that started, officially, about two weeks ago.

The National Weather Service declared Aug. 29 that the southeast part of the Iowa is in a moderate drought, KCRG-TV9 meterologist Charlene Malin said, yet the actual rainfall for the Iowa City area is actually ahead of average, due to heavier-than-normal rainfalls in April and May.

Malin said April had more than 8 inches and May had another nearly 8 inches of precipitation, nearly twice the average for both months.

So far, the area has seen 28.26 inches of rain since Jan. 1, compared to 26.61 inches for the average, she said.

The last significant rainfall came July 25, when we received 1.06 inch of rain.

“This is the driest August on record,” Malin said.

West Branch Fire Chief Kevin Stoolman said the department responded to one ditch fire on Interstate 80 where the dry conditions contributed to it spreading.

“We’re expecting more,” he said. “It’s really dry out there. The good thing is that there is not a lot of wind.”

Public Works Director Matt Goodale said the department spent only about six hours in the past two weeks trimming, compared to about 55 hours per week during normal conditions.

The dry ground makes digging harder, and, like in freezing conditions, sometimes can cause water main breaks.

However, due to the wet spring, the city’s aquifers are not so low that the city needs to ban car washing or lawn sprinkling.

City Administrator Matt Muckler said weeds are still growing, though, and some residents are getting cited for those that grow over 6 inches.

On the positive side, though, “it has freed up time for other projects,” Muckler said.

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