With all the snow, are we still in a drought? | WBEZ
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With all this snow, are we still in a drought?

A snowy farm in Illinois. (Flickr/mmarcotte51)
Chicago is gearing up for yet another winter storm that's already dumped more than foot of snow from Texas to Oklahoma. While you may think of the snow as a big hassle, farmers across the state are cheering.

For the first time in seven months, Sugar Grove farmer Steve Ruh is getting so much rain and snow that his field’s drainage system is helping put moisture back into the waterways.

"They’re replenishing the creeks, and they’ve actually replenished the Illinois and the Mississippi River enough where we’ve been able to actually ship grain out via the river, which we haven’t been able to do the last few months, because the water had been so low," he explained.

Ruh farms in total about 3,200 acres, just west of Aurora in Sugar Grove and at another farm near Champaign.

"We’re almost ahead of schedule as far as moisture," he said. "But, we had a lot to make up for."

The National Weather Service says the Chicago area is about 2.65 inches above normal so far this year. Rockford is 2.95 inches.

State climatologist Jim Angel said even though the USDA Drought Monitor still shows part of the northern and western areas of the state in drought conditions, that likely hasn't taken into account recent rain and snow.

"January was a very wet month," he said, adding that gave the topsoil a good soaking. "It’s that area two or three feet below that needs to get moisture and we’re pretty close to that."

Angel, ironically, was at a conference today at Purdue University speaking to farmers about the weather. This is the time of year he travels around visiting farms, and he said he many farmers are optimistic about this year.

Steve Ruh is, too.

"We are replenishing and today’s heavy wet snow is definitely a Godsend," he said.

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