Weekend rainfall may have eased a drought in western Indiana, but much of the state continues in the dry spell's grip, weather experts said Monday.
While the rest of the state received an inch or less of rain over the weekend, much of the western half got an inch or more -- and some pockets saw 2-3 inches, according to the Indiana State Climate Office.
Associate state climatologist Ken Scheeringa said the National Drought Mitigation Center, which monitors dry conditions throughout the nation, likely would ease western Indiana's drought status as a result of the rainfall. The national center will update drought maps Thursday.
However, other sections of the state which saw little or no weekend rain might actually be judged to be in more severe drought, Scheeringa said.
Southern Indiana has generally seen the worst of the dry weather, with much of the region already in a moderate drought. Further south, in Kentucky, the drought is severe, according to climatologists.
In extreme southern Indiana, farmer John Shelton was considering cutting his cattle herd after dry pastures forced him to start supplementing their feed with hay -- something he usually doesn't do until November.
"We'll definitely have to get the number of mouths adjusted to the amount of feed that's available," said Shelton, who keeps about 110 cattle at his operation about 10 miles west of Madison. He said his hay harvest in May was about half normal.
After seeing just a drizzle of precipitation over the weekend, Shelton said he might have to sell off as much as three-fourths of his cattle, depending on the rain.
"It will rain again, we just don't know when," he said. "It may be this fall."
The extended outlook through July 4 includes below normal precipitation and above normal temperatures, the National Weather Service said. Normal rainfall in Indiana this time of year is about 1 inch per week. Most counties are about 3 inches or more below normal.
Some areas, like Shelbyville, are as much as 7 inches behind their normal rate of rain for the May-June period, according to the climate office.
"It was dry there to begin with," said weather service meteorologist Logan Johnson.
The Indiana drought is an extension of a dry spell that has hit the Southeast all year, Scheeringa said. But the Indiana drought has developed rapidly.
"You've heard of flash floods. This is a flash drought," he said.
Scheeringa attributed much of the drought to the Bermuda High, a bubble of warm air off the coast of Florida that influences weather in the southeastern United States and sometimes expands westward. Indiana is on the fringes of the Bermuda High, which causes cycles of dry, hot weather, he said.
Meanwhile, any rain at all is better than none, said Johnson.
"It's certainly going to help," he said. "It's not going to hurt to get rain. It's certainly going to put things in the right direction."
At least scattered showers and thunderstorms remain in the forecast for much of Indiana each day through Thursday. Several inches of rain, spread out over several days, would be needed to bust the drought.
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