Tropical Storm Isaac could bring welcome rain to some states in the Mississippi River valley this week, but experts say it’s unlikely to break the drought gripping the U.S. Midwest.
Along with the deluge of rain along the Gulf Coast from Isaac, the National Weather Service predicts rain for eastern Arkansas, southeast Missouri and southern Illinois.
Those areas are among those hit hard by the drought, which has turned more than half of all U.S. counties into natural disaster areas and hurt corn, soybean and wheat crops. Conditions are especially bad in the cornbelt, which makes the country the world’s production leader. Nearly all of Nebraska, Illinois, Kansas, Missouri and more than two-thirds of Iowa are in the worst two stages of drought.
The rain from Issac that falls inland likely will ease but not eliminate drought, because those areas are so dry, said Mark Svoboda, a climatologist with the National Drought Mitigation Center.
Arkansas rancher Don Rodgers said his area is short 17 inches (431 millimeters) of rain this year. He said even a couple of inches from Isaac would make a significant difference.
“I’m very sorry for the people in the path of this hurricane. I’m just praying we can get some of the benefit from it up here,” said Rodgers.
National Weather Service hydrologist Marty Pope said any rise in the river would help clear clogged shipping channels, especially along the Mississippi River, which have caused temporary closures in recent weeks. The low levels have prompted companies to reduce loads on barges carrying goods ranging from grain to gasoline, which can mean big losses for shippers.
Svoboda said a high pressure system over the Great Plains this week will keep Isaac’s moisture from reaching much of that area. And Iowa may be too far north to see significant rainfall since the storm will have dropped much of the moisture it picked up in the Gulf by the time it hits there.
With as dry as this year has been, many people would probably welcome the moisture even if it is accompanied by some flooding, Arkansas climatologist Michael Borengasser said.
“We’ll take all of it we can get,” Borengasser said.
Associated Press writer Holbrook Mohr contributed to this report from Gulfport, Miss