The rains that shut down part of Lake Shore Drive on Sunday were enough to start to pull much of the Chicago area out of its months-long drought. And the aftereffects of Hurricane Isaac could bring enough rain to improve conditions in much of the state, the state climatologist said today.
Although O’Hare International Airport only saw a little more than a half-inch of rain, areas from Aurora to Oak Lawn to Warrenville received more than two inches of rain. Midway Airport caught more than 3 inches, and Riverside, LaGrange Park, and even parts of the city, received more than 4 inches, according to the National Weather Service.
“What kind of rain dance are you guys doing up there? I’d like to use it in the rest of the state,” State Climatologist Jim Angel said in an email today.
“Cook County and parts of Lake, Will, and Kankakee counties are showing signs of recovery,” he said.
That trend could continue, if storms forecast for Friday night and Saturday materialize, according to the Chicago Weather Center.
One way to tell if an area remains in drought is by looking at its streams and rivers, Angel said. And most of the small streams in northeast Illinois are at normal levels, Angel noted.
“If the streams and rivers are close to their normal levels and stay that way, then you know that soil moisture is good and that the lakes and ponds are also in good shape,” he said.
Other parts of the state also are faring better recently, especially east-central Illinois, after measurable rains and cooler temperatures.
“You know, a 1-inch rainfall doesn’t go very far in 100 degree weather, but the same 1-inch rainfall in 80 degree weather gets to soak in instead of immediately evaporating,” Angel said.
Later this week, Hurricane Isaac’s aftereffects could help break the drought, much the same way the remnants of storms including Hurricane Katrina helped break a period of drought in late summer 2005, Angel noted in a blog post this week.
“I suspect we will see sizeable and widespread improvements after Isaac moves through Illinois,” he said today. “Obviously it’s too late for much of the corn and soybeans but it will begin to recharge soil moisture.”
“It's good news for homeowners since grass, trees, and shrubs should benefit from the rains,” Angel said.
And in a year that’s seen Midwest farmers devastated by heat-baked crops, some farmers whose soybeans haven’t matured yet could see some improvements in their crops, too, Angel said.
The rest of the week should see gradual warming through Friday, when high temperatures should be in the lower 90s, according to the weather service. There's a 20 percent chance of showers in the Chicago area Friday night, and a 40 percent chance Saturday.