Thursday's rainfall sets record for 2012

CHAMPAIGN — When the heavens opened over Champaign-Urbana on Thursday afternoon, it marked only the third time the community has received one or more inches of rain this year.

Illinois climatologist Jim Angel said the area received 1.82 inches on Thursday, by far the highest amount received this year.

"There's a cold front pushing through the state, but this was a lot more rain than I expected," Angel said. "We had a classic clash between cold and warm air. As the cold air bulldozed through the state, it stirred up the atmosphere and triggered the thunderstorms."

In fact, Champaign-Urbana has only experienced two other rainfalls of one or more inches in 2012 prior to Thursday: 1.06 inches on Jan. 17 and 1.05 inches on May 29.

Angel said that, even with Thursday's rain, the area has only received 18.68 inches since Jan. 1, still short 8.88 inches for the year compared with average rainfall for Champaign-Urbana.

"We're at least getting a wetter weather pattern than we had before," Angel said.

Champaign County Farm Bureau Manager Brad Uken said Thursday's rain might help the soybean crop, but it was probably a case of too little, too late for corn.

"This rain could still have a positive impact on soybeans," Uken said. "The bean inside the pod is still developing, so it could benefit from the rain."

But Thursday's rain likely won't help the corn crop at all, Uken said.

"The kernels are already set on the ear, and the kernel size is set," Uken said. "At least the rain might cause the weight of a bushel of corn to increase a little, bringing it closer to the typical weight of a bushel of corn."

John Collins, operations manager for Urbana public works, said city crews were picking up debris around the city on Thursday afternoon.

A tree also fell on a power line at Florida and Race, according to METCAD.

Kris Koester, administrative services supervisor for the Champaign Public Works Department, said flooding was reported Thursday afternoon at State and Green, State and Springfield, Market and Columbia, in the Weeping Willow subdivision and in Dobbins Downs.

"Our crews have not been able to get as much cleanup work done because of the rains and storm," Koester said.

In Ogden, a power outage caused by Thursday's afternoon's storm led to a fire at a plastic vacuum forming plant, according to Ogden-Royal Fire Chief Randy Thompsen.

Nobody was injured, he said.

According to a fire department report, firefighters were called to ShapeMaster, 108 E. Main St., Ogden, at 2:05 p.m.

Firefighters from Homer and St. Joseph-Stanton provided mutual aid.

When firefighters arrived, they found smoke coming out of an overhead door at the facility.

Thompsen said employees were in the process of heating a piece of plastic. When the power went out, the plastic dropped down into the heating element of the oven, causing the fire.

"The employees had the fire out prior to our arrival," Thompsen said. "We assisted in getting smoke out of the building."

Thompsen said that three or four employees who worked in the manufacturing area were evacuated from the building.

Firefighters left the scene by 2:45 p.m.

Thompsen said damage was minimal and that he expected the plant to be back in operation by the end of Thursday.

Meanwhile, about 75 residents of the Bridle Brook assisted-living community in Mahomet were evacuated to the Mahomet Public Library after an odor was detected in one wing just before 3 p.m.

Cornbelt Fire Chief Lloyd Galey said no fire was found and nobody was injured.

"It could be a coincidence the odor came in during the rain," Galey said. "We couldn't find anywhere on the exterior where there were signs of a lightning strike."

Galey said it is possible that a fire alarm system could have been affected by a disturbance within the building's electrical system, which could have been related to the storm.

Mahomet Police Chief Mike Metzler helped drive three van loads (each carrying 15 residents) to the library, and he said some school buses from the Mahomet-Seymour school district were used to evacuate others.

Administrator Heather Houser said the residents returned to their homes about 6:30 p.m.

Galey gave Houser credit for taking the initiative to evacuate the residents shortly after the odor was detected.

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