Drought remains biggest worry
By MIKE CORN
Northwest Kansas weather continues its march through 2014 in lamb's clothing, still well below average in terms of rainfall.
Temperatures, however, appear to be in something of a psychotic rage, at least in Hays, ranging from daytime highs of 39 degrees April 3 to a high of 92 degrees April 26.
But by the time April was in the record books, temperatures came in only slightly warmer than average, according to records maintained at the Kansas State University Agricultural Research Center at the south edge of Hays.
It's the rainfall, however, that's of concern this spring.
There's no doubt it's dry.
That much can be seen in the Drought Monitor map produced by the University of Nebraska at Lincoln.
Both Ellis and Russell counties, along with border-crossings in Trego, Ness, Rush, Rooks and Osborne counties, remain in an extreme drought. Far western counties also are in the extreme drought category, and portions of south-central Kansas were added just last week.
In Hays, it's the 18th driest January through April period, with 2.16 inches of precipitation so far this year. The driest four-month period, incidentally, came in 1893, when less than a third of an inch was measured during the course of four months.
By itself, a dry start doesn't mean much.
It is significant, however, to note in those 17 other years, only two -- 1950 and 1959 -- ended with more precipitation than normal.
The rest were below normal, some markedly so.
By comparison, the first four months of 2014 are drier than the first four months of 1956 -- the driest year on record when just 9.21 inches fell.
In Hays, rainfall in April amounted to just 0.91 of an inch, 1.2 inches less than normal. That's 2.99 inches less than normal.
In Colby, the April total was just 0.64 of an inch of rain. That's approximately 1.3 inches less than normal. For the year, Colby is 2.72 inches below normal in terms of rainfall. Russell reported 0.75 of an inch, but that's well below the normal 2.62 inches recorded in April.
There were some locations in northwest Kansas receiving heavy rains.
The heaviest report came from a mile north of Penokee in Graham County, where 4.17 inches were reported.
Rainfall reports of 2 to 3 inches were common in April, stretching from Quinter to Damar and Stockton on up through Lebanon in Smith County.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, however, 8 miles southeast of Atwood, rainfall in April stood at just 0.08 of an inch. Ten miles south of Sharon Springs, the total was 0.15 of an inch, barely more than the 0.16 of an inch southwest of Trego Center.