Much-needed rain doused some of the driest areas of the parched Midlands over the past couple of days, but not nearly enough to keep plants healthy.
As a result, most yards still need water, and homeowners will get more mileage from their efforts if they water while soils are still damp, horticulturists say.
Mary Anna Anderson, a horticulturist with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension, said soil softened by rain will more easily soak in additional water.
“It's more likely to go deep into the soil,” she said.
The Omaha area hadn't had a good rain in more than a month. Still, in some areas, Sunday's rain didn't add up to much.
Rainfall totals varied widely, with .27 inches falling in Gretna and a half inch or so recorded in midtown Omaha. Officially, Lincoln received .02 inches at its airport and Omaha recorded .78 inches at Eppley Airfield.
“It was enough to settle the dust,” said Brian Fuchs, climatologist for the National Drought Mitigation Center at UNL, who says additional rain is needed to replace lost subsoil moisture.
More rain fell on the Iowa side of the Missouri River, with eastern Council Bluffs getting nearly three inches and parts of southwest Iowa seeing more than two inches.
Some of that is due to timing, Fuchs said. By the time the system had moved farther east, night had fallen. Rain clouds are more productive after dark.
The southern borders of Nebraska and Iowa, which are in drought to near-drought conditions, got some of Sunday's heaviest rain. Rulo, Neb., received .92 inches and Red Oak, Iowa, recorded 2.72 inches at its airport. Portions of western Nebraska, in drought to near-drought conditions, were only brushed by the recent rain.
Such rains are important right now, because plants are growing so fast, the roots take more water out of the ground. The absence of frequent showers leads to moisture deficits in the soil.
Plants this time of year are accustomed to receiving about an inch of moisture a week, Fuchs said. So Omaha, for example, is still behind on what's needed.
“The rain will be history in a few days,” Fuchs said.
More rain is possible this week. If those rains materialize, Fuchs said, that would begin to make a difference.
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