Less than an inch of rain over August, September combined

CHAMPAIGN — It's been so dry that golf course superintendents are having trouble keeping their greens green.

So dry, in fact, that this has been the driest August and September in Champaign-Urbana in more than 100 years, according to state climatologist Jim Angel.

Since Aug. 1, only 94-hundredths of an inch of rain have been recorded at the Illinois State Water Survey in south Champaign. That ties the record for the driest August-September combination, set in 1897.

There's only a slight chance of rain Saturday night and Sunday, according to the National Weather Service, before October begins on Tuesday.

After a wet spring in Champaign-Urbana, the last three-month period has been unusually parched, especially August with just 0.36 of an inch of rain (compared with a normal 3.93 inches) and September with 0.58 of an inch of rain (compared with a normal 3.13 inches).

Only six other two-month periods in Champaign-Urbana weather history (dating to 1888) have been drier, according to Angel:

— July/August 1893 with 0.65 inches

— September/October 1897 with 0.75 inches

— October/November 1904 with 0.81 inches

— And three separate November/December periods with 0.78 inches in 1917, 0.83 inches in 1904 and 0.84 inches in 1976.

Perry Greene, course superintendent at Stone Creek Golf Club in Urbana, said the last two months have been difficult.

"We're just trying to keep everything growing and alive," he said. "And we're being judicious in that as well. We're running about half of what we'd normally water. And even though we had a lot of rain this spring, the ground is so hard from all that rain that we need to aerify right now, but we can't. If we opened the ground now, it would even dry everything out faster.

"We're holding off on our fairway aerification. And there are areas we need to seed that we can't seed because we can't get water to it. It's just a challenge now. Normally by the first of October you're back into the rainy season, but there's just no relief in sight."

Stone Creek relies on its ponds and two small wells to water the course. The public water supply is just too expensive, he said.

"We have the ability to do city water, but we don't. Six or eight years ago we tried to fill up one of the ponds with some city water and it just about killed us. And the price of water has almost doubled since then," he said.

Matt Barnes, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Lincoln, said that a large ridge of high pressure has been over Illinois or just west of the state for much of the summer and has kept conditions dry. It's been even drier in Decatur, according to the weather service; that city has had only 0.31 of an inch of rain since Aug. 1.

"If you go farther south or to the east, like in Tennessee and the southeast part of the U.S., there's no drought at all," he said. "The dry conditions, though, extend from our general area westward."

He agreed with Greene that the dry conditions apparently will continue.

"The Climate Prediction Center is not indicating any clear trend one way or the other," he said, "so I think that since we've been locked into this pattern and I don't see any changes coming along, I would imagine the drier than normal weather will persist."

That's not what Greene wants to hear.

"You can add all the water you want, but when Mother Nature gives you rain it penetrates the soil better. We can water and water and water and sometimes it just runs off the ground. But when Mother Nature does it ... she just has to help us," he said. "If we could get a hard inch of rain these lakes would fill up overnight."

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