DECATUR — After days of continuously hot and humid weather in Central Illinois, some local farmers and weather experts said Monday that the area's recent rainfall has provided a refuge from dry conditions.
"It's been a very good thing," said Cory Ritter, who operates a farm on about 2,000 acres of land in Blue Mound. "If you would have talked to me 48 hours ago, I would have been extremely nervous of crop conditions and soil moisture."
The National Weather Service in Lincoln said that Macon County was hit with about 1 to 2 inches of rain on Monday, while areas within the southern regions of Central Illinois saw much higher totals.
Ritter said the soil at his farm has soaked the rain up "beautifully" and has allowed his crop's lush green color to return.
He said his farm has recently gone through patterns of missing rain to not receiving enough. Hot days have caused the corn curl up to protect itself, Ritter said, which takes away from its yield potential daily.
"We've had so many (rain) chances that have failed, you try not to get your hopes up," Ritter said. "I was happy with the half inch that we've received Saturday ... that was pretty nice."
Jim Angel, Illinois state climatologist, and Macon County Farm Bureau Executive Director Tim Stock also agreed that the area's recent wet conditions have been positive for some farmers in areas that have been dry in recent weeks.
"Looks like the rain came at the nick of time," Angel said.
It's hard to tell what is considered a "normal" summer growing season for farm communities anymore, Stock said, due to unpredictable weather patterns in the Midwest. This season, the shortened spring allowed farmers to plant crops in a timely manner and led to a lot of corn growing at a more rapid pace than normal, he said.
"Each year is different due to the obstacles that farmers face," Stock said. "They're really huffing to put a crop in ... I don't know many guys holding off because of weather."
In average years, Angel said, 4½ inches of rain would be enough to provide a good corn crop. However, receiving half of that would lead to an overreliance on moisture that has been stored in soil, he said.
"That could be a problem as you go through the growing season," Angel said. "Some people can coast a little while because their soils are so good, but we really do need the rain."
Outside of Macon County, the weather service estimated that counties such as Christian and Shelby saw between 3 to 5 inches of rain Monday. Meteorologist Chris Miller said that many areas in Christian County were flooded due to the heavy rain.
Coles County also dealt with some street flooding after a "deluge" of rainfall hit the area Sunday. Cameron Craig, a climatologist with the Eastern Illinois University weather center, said street flooding and similar conditions can result from "how fast it falls," rather than the actual amount of rain.
Decatur police Sgt. Shawn Guenther said a lot of the underpasses in the city, such as ones on North Jasper Street and East Grand Avenue, flooded due to heavy rain in the area.
Intense rain Monday afternoon even flooded the North Main Street underpass just south of East Green Street near downtown Decatur.
A car was stalled at the underpass, and traffic was being diverted onto East Green Street. Soon after the rain passed, the water began to recede and one lane was reopened. Guenther said all lanes at the underpass were reopened by 8:05 p.m.
The 2008 Chevy Malibu was being driven by 18-year-old Chaylynn Force, who said she was delivering pizza for Papa John's when she encountered water pooled beneath the underpass.
"Other people were driving through it, so I'm like, 'Sure, I can go through it too,' but no," said Force, whose uniform pants were mostly soaked as she sat on the curb waiting for a tow truck.
Force said she made it up the hill on the other side of the underpass, but her car began to slide backward and then water started to seep inside. She called 911 and abandoned the pizzas in the car as she sought safety, with the water up to her kneecaps as she exited the vehicle.
She said she had already called her manager and the customers to let them know the order was delayed — and that her car likely wouldn't be running anytime soon.
For drivers who encounter standing water, Force has a simple piece of advice: Turn around.
"Don't even go through it at all," she said. "Just because other people do it doesn't mean you're gonna make it, too."
Guenther said that flooding is inevitable when the rain pours down hard.
"When you get those torrential downpours, I don't know any sewer system that doesn't back up," he said.
Miller said Central Illinois could see more showers and thunderstorms as the week continues, as a front coming in from the west is expected to approach the area.
The showers are expected to be hit or miss, he said, as the front pushes through the area rather than linger.
"Most areas won't get any rain, but a few areas might get a thunderstorm," Miller said. "That's pretty common for the summertime."
Dave Fopay and Rob Stroud of the Journal Gazette & Times-Courier contributed to this article.