Four inches of rain eased the drought in some parts of Iowa, and lesser amounts fell in other areas of the nation's heartland Saturday. Also, North Carolina race car drivers made plans for a "hay ride" to deliver bales to Ohio farmers.
A stalled cold front over Iowa brought the first widespread rainfall to the state since Mother's Day and new hope to farmers whose crops had withered from lack of moisture.A number of cities were under indefinite outdoor water restrictions as temperatures in many Midwestern cities soared toward the 100-degree mark.
Storms dampened parts of the central United States Saturday from northwestern Oklahoma through Nebraska to southwestern Wisconsin, cooling temperatures below 90 degrees across much of the Great Plains and Mississippi Valley - but the National Weather Service forecast more hot weather by Tuesday in the Farm Belt.
Severe thunderstorm watches were posted in north-central Minnesota and along the border of the Dakotas, and a tornado watch was in effect Saturday night in parts of east-central Colorado, southeastern Wyoming and western Nebraska.
Up to 4 inches of rain fell in some rural areas of northwest Iowa early Saturday.
"It requires 4 inches of rain to break the drought," Iowa State University climatologist S. Elwynn Taylor said. "Places that receive 4 inches of rain will have the drought broken in their localities."
He said rain of 4 inches was unlikely statewide, but even 2 inches of moisture would substantially improve the prospects for Iowa's corn crop, which now is in its critical pollenation stage.
As the front moved into the state, 16 Hopi Indians from Winslow, Ariz., performed a sacred dance Friday night before a packed high school football stadium in Audubon asking for widespread rain and harmony with nature.
Twenty-five NASCAR Winston Cup race car teams plan to race to the aid of frustrated farmers later this week, offering their car transporters to haul hay from North Carolina to Ohio fields.
The Charlotte Motor Speedway's "race," set for Thursday, is a reversal of the 1986 "Hayride 500" in which the speedway and NASCAR Winston Cup Series teams transported 20,000 bales of donated hay from Columbus, Ohio, farmers for delivery to drought-stricken southeast farmers.
Ohio officials, seeking even more immediate help, issued a weekend plea for volunteer truck drivers and for trucks to haul hay donated from other states, including Vermont, West Virginia and Virginia.
Nearly 1,000 bales of donated hay arrived Saturday in southwest Ohio from North Carolina aboard trucks donated by Ashland Chemical Co.