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Drought Leaving Lawns Dry, Farmers Devastated

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Drought

The ongoing drought is leaving lawns brown and water levels in retention ponds low. (Credit: CBS)

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UPDATED 07/06/12 1:41 p.m.

ROLLING MEADOWS, Ill. (CBS) — Storms packing enough power to leave anyone drenched to the bone passed through Chicago on Thursday, but the area is still severely short on rain.

But the scorching, 100-plus-degree temperatures have been taking a major toll on crops and vegetation. And as WBBM Newsradio’s Dave Berner reports, the hot and dry conditions are also leaving farmers in a financial bind.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Dave Berner reports


Chris Gould’s family farm in Kaneville is 2,500 acres, and it is mostly corn. The corn is in good shape for now, but it is stressing.

“You read about it in Texas and all that, but this isn’t supposed to happen in northern Illinois,” Gould said.

Corn is at a critical stage. It is supposed to pollinate now, but it may just stop if there is no rain.

If Gould has to mow over this year’s crop, he says, “It would be gun-wrenching.”

This year was to be one of the biggest corn crops in history for the Midwest, but instead, farmers are comparing it to the devastating drought of 1988. Some are even comparing it to the Dust Bowl of the 1930s.

“If it stays like this for another week, 10 days, I think we can kind of write it off,” Gould said. “But it’s going to be close to that.”

Of course, the problems aren’t limited to rural areas.

CBS 2′s Kris Habermehl reports a field on the line between Rolling Meadows and Hoffman Estates is as brown as an old straw hat. There was some green close to the retention pond next to the field, but the topsoil and subsoil were both bone dry.

Many lawns in the city and suburbs are in similar condition, looking more like flat mats of straw than lawns of grass.

In the smaller lakes and retention ponds, the water levels have been dropping as the water evaporates. The water is evaporating into the soil and the air, and the sunlight is penetrating the surface to expose the algae and other vegetation in the lakes.

State climatologist Jim Angel says the Chicago area is under a moderate drought. But conditions are far worse downstate; in Southern Illinois, one of the worst droughts in recent memory has rendered the topsoil and subsoil as dust.

The bad news, Habermehl says, is that dormant or dead lawns aren’t likely to green up even if the area has better luck with rain during the rest of the summer. They will likely just become a darker shade of beige.

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