Sunny day in Cherokee

The sun shines in Cherokee,  Iowa on Nov. 24. No measurable precipitation fell in Cherokee or a number of other Northwest Iowa communities during the month of November, the first time that's happened in the region since 2007, according to the state climatologist.

Jim Lee, Sioux City Journal

 WASHTA, Iowa | The "Coldest Spot in Iowa" was the driest spot in Iowa last month. Washta received zero precipitation in November, according to State Climatologist Harry Hillaker.

Washta, which famously recorded a temperature of 47 degrees below zero in January 1912, joined Cherokee, the Cherokee County seat, and nearby Primghar, the O'Brien County seat, in receiving no rain or snow last month, a rarity.

"In Northwest Iowa, it might happen once every 30 years," Hillaker said. "But the last time we had a November this dry was only 10 years ago, in 2007."

Joel De Jong, crops specialist serving Iowa State University Extension, said the lack of rain was welcome in the first part of November as farmers made up for a soggy September and October by bringing in soybeans and a bountiful corn crop.

"We got lucky in that temperatures cooled off in late July and those rains helped," he said, citing the fact that Iowa's individual kernel weights finished way above average.

And while last month marked the 15th driest November in 145 years of Iowa records, De Jong isn't too concerned about drought possibilities in this section of the state.

"It may be dry on top, but there's enough moisture below the surface to start next year's crop," he said. "Everyone was above the long-term average in moisture content as of November 1.

Hillaker said that might not be the case in southeast and south-central Iowa, which had dry growing seasons this year and last year. The USDA reported 72 percent of the subsoil is very short on moisture in south-central Iowa. That figure comes to 61 percent in southeast Iowa.

"Those are high numbers for this time of year," Hillaker said of the subsoil readings. "Nobody else in the state has anything near those percentages. That's worrisome as it's a big enough deficit that will be hard to make up before the 2018 growing season."

Generally, soil freezes the second week of December in Iowa. Hillaker said moisture received after that point often doesn't have a significant impact on the soil profile.

"It's also worrisome with our return to La Nina because a La Nina cycle is bad for getting rainfall in the growing season," he said, adding the odds are good for Iowa to come up short on precipitation in the 2018 crop season.

La Nina typically favors a slightly wetter than normal winter.

November, around here, was bone dry as the statewide average precipitation came to less than one-half of an inch at .43. Additionally, there wasn't hardly any snow of consequence.

"Maquoketa in eastern Iowa was the snowy spot for the state as it had three-tenths of an inch on November 13," said Hillaker, who thanked a diligent weather observer for measuring the snow before it melted.

Sioux City set a record for warmth on Nov. 23 when the mercury hit 63 degrees. One day later, Iowa City recorded 74 degrees, the warm spot for the state last month.

How cold did it get? Swea City dipped to 6 degrees on Nov. 10. Twelve days later, both Estherville and Little Sioux reported a 6-degree mark.

And while Sioux City had rain during November, it didn't make the tenth-of-an-inch level. Just eight-hundredths of an inch fell at Sioux Gateway Airport.

In a month where precipitation seemed lost on Iowa it's appropriate the wettest spot in the state was at a Clinton County town with a nomadic name, where residents recorded 1.51 inches of moisture. That community: Lost Nation.

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