Storms cheered by thousands at a major-league baseball game in Kansas City brought desperately needed rain to the drought-battered Midwest Wednesday, but forecasters said much more was needed.
"You talk about a $1 million rain - this is a $100 million rain," extension agent Vance Haugen in northeast Wisconsin's Shawano County said as the storms began Tuesday. "We're very happy. We're out dancing in it."Meanwhile, the president of the American Farm Bureau charged that the drought's severity is being exaggerated by the media and politicians.
"The national media never met a disaster they didn't like,," Dean Kleckner said during a news conference at Colorado State University as part of a tour of four Western states.
"The nightly network news (media) have made up their minds. The story is: no crops in the country, a complete disaster, higher food prices," he said.
Politicians are hoping to take advantage of the drought crisis in an election year, he claimed. The Farm Bureau is a private, non-profit federation with 3.5 million members.
Tuesday's rainfall was the first significant precipitation for the Chicago area since May 23, the National Weather Service said.
The worst drought to hit America's midsection since the Dust Bowl has withered crops, dried up water supplies, halted barge traffic on shrunken rivers and sparked forest fires.
A record 1.67 inches of rain fell Tuesday in Madison, Wis., where the old mark of 1.62 inches was set in 1928. In six hours overnight, more than 3 inches fell in Oklahoma City, where streets were up to 3 feet deep in water. Omaha, Neb., got 2.6 inches overnight and Lacrosse, Wis., got 2 inches.
In Michigan, however, Traverse City Farm Bureau agent John Am-rhein said: "The rain we got was almost nothing. Wasn't even enough really to settle the dust."
"It definitely helps, but probably a lot more will be needed to really change the situation," the weather service's Hugh Crowther said from Kansas City, Mo.
Scattered showers and thunderstorms extended Wednesday from the High Plains to the mid-Mississippi Valley.
When light rain began falling Tuesday in the bottom of the ninth of the White Sox-Royals game in Kansas City, the 27,000 spectators broke into sustained applause. But the rain lasted only a few minutes, and the Royals lost 4-3.
Despite the rain, temperatures in the 100s seared sections of the Midwest. It was 101 degrees in Kansas City, where the old record of 94 was set in 1978. Temperatures hit 105 in Sioux Falls, S.D., 1 degree higher than the 1931 record.
Triple-digit temperatures caused part of I-20 in central Mississippi to buckle more than 4 feet, triggering a collision between two cars and a tractor-trailer rig, officials said. No serious injuries were reported.
Last week's heat severely stressed crops and blotted up soil moisture in most of the nation's eastern half, the government's Joint Agricultural Weather Facility reported Tuesday.
"Corn, cotton, soybeans, sorghum and spring wheat conditions continued declining" the week of June 20-26, the unit said. "The lack of moisture may prevent some soybeans and sorghum from emerging."
Pastures were rated poor to very poor, and farmers culled herds as pasture and hay supplies dropped, the report said.