"Last spring. This spring. What a difference a year makes," said Pat Guinan, climatologist at the University of Missouri-Columbia.

At the beginning of spring, a year ago, northern Missouri was in a drought, said the extension specialist with the Commercial Agriculture Program. Land preparation and corn planting were under way over parts of the state. Even farmers in north Missouri were already planting because of mild weather and dry soils.

"Rainfall deficits had grown in excess of 15 inches due to a dry period that began in July of 1999 and persisted into June of 2000," the climatologists recalled.

"Fast forward to this year and drought is all but a memory," Guinan said. Farmers in north Missouri weren't thinking about corn planting as they dug out of deep snow last week across the upper part of the state.

"The latest United States drought map has completely erased the dryness over the state," Guinan said. "Above normal precipitation this winter has saturated the soils across the state and made it difficult for farmers to get in their fields."

Lingering traces of the drought had persisted in extreme northwest and extreme southeast Missouri until recent weeks.

Drought concerns have been replaced with flood worries this year, Guinan cautioned. Rivers and streams are running above normal across a large part of the state with some at or above flood stage.

The latest outlook for April indicates nothing out of the ordinary, however. The national weather service calls for normal precipitation and temperature.

That means rainfall ranges from 3.2 to 3.5 inches in the northwest quarter to 3.5 to 3.8 inches from northeastern through central sections of the state. Normal precipitation increases from 3.8 to 4.5 inches as you travel southward through the southern third of Missouri. The Bootheel records the highest normal ranging between 4.5 to 5 inches for April.

For those who want to see how dry weather is affecting neighboring states, they can look at the drought monitor on the Internet. The address is: http://enso.unl.edu/monitor/2001/drmon0313.gif.

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