Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

April 20, 2013

Rain pummels area; rivers expected to crest

Bill Grimes Daily News
Effingham Daily News

---- — While more than four inches of rain this week might have made people forget about last summer's severe drought, a soil and water conservationist said the area's clay soil still hasn't recovered from months of dry weather last year.

"It takes a lot of time to replenish the soil," said Brad Tarr of the Jasper County Soil & Water Conservation District in Newton. "While soil conditions have improved, long-term effects of the drought have not been eradicated."

Tarr added that water doesn't readily soak into the clay-based soil south of the Mattoon-Charleston area.

"There's a lot of runoff," he said. "There was somebody digging a basement in this area, and when they got down to two or three feet, the soil was still crumbling. Normally this time of year it would be pretty wet."

While that may not have recovered from the drought, few signs of last summer's disaster were apparent in the Effingham area Friday. Not only were area rivers at flood stage, but Lake Sara was closed to all recreational activity until further notice.

Effingham received 2.84 inches of rain during Thursday's downpour. The deluge followed .63 and .76 inches of rain on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively.

Temperatures in the Effingham area just barely got into the 40s Friday, about 20 degrees below normal for this time of year, and only two days after daytime temperatures approached 80. National Weather Service meteorologist Matt Barnes said a strong cold front moved through the area late Thursday to create the unseasonably cool conditions.

"Earlier in the week, we had a ridge of high pressure overhead, causing the warmer weather," Barnes said. "But that was replaced by a deep area of low pressure centered in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan."

Barnes said skies were expected to clear Friday night, though temperatures were expected to hover close to freezing. By Monday, however, temperatures are expected to reach seasonable levels in the upper 60s before another cold front passes through later next week.

Most of the area was still in a flood warning Friday. Both the Embarras and Little Wabash rivers were at flood stage with worse to come.

According to the National Weather Service, the Embarras was at 18.68 feet near Ste. Marie on Friday afternoon and was expected to crest at 20.3 feet by mid-afternoon today.

The Little Wabash showed a water level of 19.63 feet near Clay City by late Friday afternoon. That river is expected to crest at 22 feet by 3 p.m. Sunday.

Needless to say, area farmers weren't planning to start planting anytime in the next few days. But Connie Elliott of the University of Illinois Extension said there doesn't appear to be anything to worry about.

"We were in the fields last year at this time," Elliott said. "But now, we need hot and windy conditions to make it dry out faster.

"There's still plenty of time to get a good crop out," she added.