Indianapolis — Indiana’s drought is intensifying after weeks of scant rainfall that have left cropland parched, raised the risk of wildfires and sent homeowners scrambling to water lawns fading from green to brown.
The federal government’s U.S. Drought Monitor map updated Thursday shows nearly 90 percent of Indiana is now abnormally dry. A moderate drought covers about 40 percent of the state, mainly northern Indiana and the state’s southwestern corner — a portion of which is experiencing a severe drought, the map indicates.
Associate state climatologist Ken Scheeringa said a weather system that pushed across Indiana on Monday delivered little or no rain to parched areas. The next good chance of rain is a week away and temperatures are forecast to rise into the lower 90s in the coming days, he said.
“We’ll be lucky to get rain in the next week. It’s very distant,” Scheeringa said Thursday.
A week ago, the area officially in drought stretched to the north of Kokomo. By Thursday, the drought area included all of Miami, Howard and Tipton counties.
Three northern Indiana counties — Marshall, Noble and Steuben — have imposed countywide burn bans due to the risk of wildfires, and others could soon follow.
Noble County’s fire departments have battled about a dozen fires in the past week in tinder-dry fields suffering from a 6-inch rainfall deficit, said Kendallville Fire Chief Mike Riehm.
“It’s just too parched right now. There’s a great danger of wind-whipped fires getting out of control and moving really fast,” he said.
Kokomo Fire Chief Pat O’Neill said Thursday there’s been no discussion of a local burning ban. By agreement, city fire officials and township fire officials have convened in the past to decide jointly on a burning ban.
The last burning ban was issued in the fall, O’Neill noted, when crops were drying in the fields. A ban would be less likely in the spring, when crops are still green, he added.