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Rains Wet State's Parched Ground
By Chantel Lott
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Many Mississippians breathed a sigh of relief when rains fell across the state, but more rain is necessary to replenish the state's water level.
"The rains in mid-November are what we would call a major rainfall event," said Charles Wax, head of geosciences at Mississippi State University and state climatologist.
Wax said about four inches fell in many parts of the state Nov. 9. In the four weeks since mid-October, Tupelo has gotten 5.1 inches of rain, Jackson about 4.5 inches, Clarksdale more than 3.6 inches, Hattiesburg nearly 4.4 inches and Gulfport almost 2.5 inches.
Usually Mississippi receives 52 to 56 inches of rain per year, but this year is averaging about 20 inches less than normal. This deficit is made worse since the state also had less rain than normal in 1999.
"A huge ridge of high pressure kept the state dry all summer. Now it looks almost like the gates are open and more weather systems are moving in," Wax said.
He said he expects more rain to come to the state in the next week or two because of several weather systems that are currently heading toward Mississippi.
"It was great to have the rain. I saw no run-off or standing water; it seems to have sunk into the ground or raised the levels of ponds and streams," Wax said. "The state's burn ban was lifted soon after the rain as well."
Jim Thomas, agricultural engineer with MSU's Extension Service said the land needs slow soaking rain to replenish soil moisture, but rains that create a lot of runoff will help raise river and lake levels to normal.
"The rains did very little for the aquifers of the state. Aquifers are underground layers of gravel or sand that store water between confining layers of clay or solid rock," Thomas said.
"Our soil moisture, lake and river levels may be moving toward normal, but much more rain will be necessary for underground water levels to rise," Thomas said. "In the coming fall and winter, we will need average or above average rainfall to make up for the lack of rain this past season."
John Coccaro, area Extension agent in Sharkey County, said the rain was late for most crops.
"Fortunately for winter wheat crops that were just planted in late October and early November, the rain helped spur the seeds to grow," Coccaro said. "We are hoping for a rainy, wet winter to restore the subsoil moisture for next year's crops."