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Average smaverage; wait to see what the weather will be

By Jack F. Erwin

jferwin@postbulletin.com

The spring weather outlook shows little likelihood of making up the soil moisture deficit in southeastern Minnesota, much to the chagrin of most home gardeners and farmers.

Dan Jones, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service's La Crosse, Wis., office, which handles southeastern Minnesota forecasting and record-keeping, said the area entered spring two weeks ago with a soil moisture deficit of 8 to 10 inches long-term, and about 7 inches for the period beginning last July.

He said that while soil moisture in the top couple of inches should be adequate for shallow-rooted plants, deeper it will be definitely dry without above-normal rainfall to make up the deficit.

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And with near-normal rainfall predicted for the spring months of April, May and June, we will be looking at precipitation averages of 3.01 inches for April, 3.55 inches for May and 4.0 inches for June -- hardly enough to make up the deficit.

But then again, sometimes unexpectedly heavy rains do come. This is, after all, Minnesota.

Despite the averages, April 11, 2001, saw a rainfall of 3.75 inches -- well above normal for the entire month -- while that same date the year before saw Rochester receive 0.5 inch of snow! We got 3.81 inches of rain on April 23, 1990, and on that same date two years earlier, 1.1 inches of snow.

Weather Service records don't show any snow for May, but Rochester got 4.02 inches of rain May 17, 2000, 1.97 inches May 12, 1982, and 2.08 inches May 27, 1970.

The month of June has seen heavy rainfalls, too. Rochester got 4.81 inches on June 1, 2000, and 4.02 inches June 4, 1957.

And, like rainfall, the Weather Service expects normal or near-normal temperatures for the next three months, Jones said.

For the record, average temperatures are 44.7 degrees for April, 56.9 degrees for May and 66.1 for June.

The average date for the last frost in the area is May 9, and the latest-ever came on June 9, 1937, according to the Weather Service.

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But if one looks beyond the expected normal temperatures, Rochester has had a few spring shockers.

The year 1980 was a warm one. The mercury topped out at 91 degrees on both April 21 and 22 -- the hottest April days on record. The coldest April temperature came April 6, 1982, when the mercury dropped to 5 degrees.

There weren't many surprises in May in recent years, but June saw a high of 99 degrees on June 21, 1988, and the record for any June day was June 27, 1934, when the mercury topped out at 105 degrees -- and there was no air conditioning to escape to in those days.

So if the spring weather comes on as forecast, it'll be pleasant temperatures but a bit dry for gardeners.

But, as we noted earlier, this is Minnesota, and averages are only that -- averages.

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