This year 10th wettest ever

By BOB JOHNSON
Register City Editor

Register/Bob Johnson
Donna LaRue pushes aside snow on an Allen County road northeast of LaHarpe.

Through 7 a.m. today, 51.60 inches of moisture had fallen on Iola this year.
That ranks the year No. 10 all time, just .14 of an inch behind 2007’s 51.74 inches, when the second largest local flood in recorded history occurred.
Weather records for Iola date to 1906.
The top year for precipitation — this may come as a surprise — was 1973, when 63.56 inches pelted down, not in flood-prompting deluges but in frequent rains of two and three inches.
Next highest was 1992, 60.77 inches, and then 1961 with 60.03 inches, including so much in June and early July that the Neosho River rose better than 18 feet above flood stage to 33.26 feet in Iola. The river’s crest in 2007 was 26.90 feet, six feet less than 1951.
The last three years taken together were the second wettest period in history, totaling 149.34 inches. The wettest three-year period was 1973-75, with 150.40 inches.

THAT 2009 is the 10th wettest year in Iola isn’t lost on Bill King, director of Public Works for Allen County.
King and his crew maintain more than 1,000 miles of roads — 180 miles hard-surfaced and 800-plus with driving surfaces of crushed rock — and wet weather at any time of the year is a hindrance.
Moisture problems for road maintenance came to a head last Thursday when about five inches of snow fell and was whipped into road-closing drifts as high as six and eight feet.
“We can handle eight to 10 inches of snow without too much trouble,” King said. “It’s the wind that made our job hard. I sent out the plows Christmas Eve and we had some working all day Christmas. Over the weekend and since all the equipment we have has been out.”
That includes four large trucks and six motor graders with large plows mounted on their fronts, as well as two 50,000-pound loaders.
The trucks plowed hard-surfaced roads and had all cleared over the weekend. They were back out early today dealing with an inch and a half of fluffy snow that fell overnight. Motor graders have remained on the job, working on secondary roads.
King said this year’s ongoing wet weather caused more problems than in 2007, when substantial flooding occurred in early July.
Crews have had to deal with washouts on roads several times — there was flooding this year, too — and it’s been difficult to get much done with it being so wet, he said. “We haven’t been able to do as much preventive maintenance or rebuild as many miles of roads as we had planned.”
Frequent rains also have slowed work in the quarry and construction of a new cell for the landfill.

THE GREATEST advantage of substantial rainfall was for agriculture. This year’s soybean crop was as good as many farmers could remember.
A wet spring slowed the wheat harvest and delayed planting corn and to a lesser degree that of soybeans, but rainfall in July and August coupled with usually mild temperatures prompted exceptional growth.
Crops planted on bottom ground suffered from August flooding, but overall yields were high, with many soybeans making 40 to 50 bushels an acre. The wet fall also made harvesting more difficult, but today’s four-wheel-drive combines can cope with any mud short of a quagmire. When the snow fell last week all but a smidgen of the fall harvest had been completed.