A number of temperature records fell Monday, with some parts of Nebraska seeing the warmest weather on record for this late in the year.
Given the prolonged dry weather that also has been occurring, horticulturists advise that people water trees, shrubs and new plantings, even if it means hauling out the hose.
The mercury topped 80 degrees in parts of western Nebraska, and the Valentine area recorded its latest 80-plus-degree day of the year. Valentine hit 84 on Monday. Previously, that community’s latest 80-degree day had occurred about 10 days earlier in the calendar.
“It’s a pretty big deal, considering that average temperatures for this time of year are in the 40s,” said Nathan Jurgensen, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in North Platte.
Nearly every official weather station in Nebraska matched or set records, from Scottsbluff to Omaha.
This month has been unusually dry. Eppley Airfield has reported just 0.36 inches of rainfall so far this month, 1.10 inches below normal.
And though the area had a wet October — Eppley received 4.06 inches, 1.91 above the norm — the top layer of soil has begun to dry out, and that’s the layer that matters, said Kathleen Cue, horticulturist with the University of Nebraska Extension in Douglas and Sarpy Counties.
Although trees and shrubs look dormant, “that isn’t the case,” Cue said. Metabolic processes continue during winter, and the cells of plants depend on moisture to grow and move nourishment.
Once the ground freezes, plants won’t be able to access moisture in the soil, so they need to soak up a good supply in the fall, she said.
Cue said homeowners do not need to turn on irrigation systems, especially because many people have paid to have their systems shut down for the winter. Just pull out the hose, she said.
A weather pattern that has kept the area dry recently could make way for some wet weather next week.
The last noticeable rainfall in the region occurred Nov. 17-18, when a half inch fell in Valley and 0.23 of an inch fell at Eppley, according to the weather service.
That’s not enough to meet the needs of plants.
Before turning on the faucet, Cue suggested that people distribute empty tuna or pet food cans near their plants as a way of measuring how much they are watering. Plants need an inch of water, she said.
Even with rain potentially arriving next week, it remains advisable to water now, Cue said.