A freight train of thunderstorms was delivering much needed rain in a narrow swath from southern Minnesota to Ohio and northeastern Kentucky.
The storms were moving along an atmospheric set of tracks, like boxcars full of water.
In addition to causing locally damaging wind gusts, during the 24-hour period ending at midday Tuesday, rainfall has ranged from 0.25 to 1.00 inch in the swath with local amounts over 2.00 inches.
On top of rain that fell last week, some locations, including Chicago and Fort Wayne, were actually tallying up near-normal rainfall for the month so far, between 2.00 and 3.00 inches.
This National Weather Service map shows 24-hour rainfall expressed in inches at primary reporting sites ending at 7:00 a.m. CDT Wednesday, July 25, 2012.
There is the potential for another 1.00 to 2.00 inches to fall over the balance of the week in some of the same areas with locally higher amounts.
The rain is coming too late for much of the corn crop in the region. However, it will be enough to save some major soybean areas. The rain can also begin the road to recovery, in a small way, in terms of streams and reservoirs, or at least prevent the situation from getting worse.
The ground will soak up much of the rain that falls. However, in localized areas the rain will run off, leading to flash and urban flooding problems. There may actually be some subtle rises on the streams and rivers temporarily reversing the trend of much of the summer so far.
It is possible that when the new Drought Monitor is released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Thursday, there may be some subtle improvement in northern and eastern parts of the nation, when compared to last week.
Call it atmospheric natural selection, but even within the train yard of drenching storms, there are a number of communities and farms hardly getting any rain at all.
Meanwhile, southwest of the repeating thunderstorms, very little rain is being offered by Mother Nature.
The situation has become dire in much of Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Arkansas, southwestern Iowa, southern Indiana, western Kentucky and southwestern Illinois, where daytime highs near 100 degrees have been common over a desertlike landscape.
The drought is every bit as extreme today as it was yesterday in these areas. Unfortunately, the weather pattern will change very little to not at all for many of these folks.
A front is forecast to drop across the central Plains later Wednesday into Thursday. However, storms are likely to be much more spotty and less likely to repeat in that needy sector of the nation.
Indications continue to point toward the drought hanging on with excessive heat over much of the central and southern Plains into the lower Mississippi Valley well into August.
Even in areas where rain is falling now, the region is not out of the woods yet as far as ongoing problems associated with the drought, such as water supply and crop issues.
If a developing El Niño pattern comes into fruition, then a large part of the Plains and Midwest could be facing another warm winter with little snowfall, which is not the sort of thing agriculture in the area was looking forward to.
Near the rim of a heat wave is where you often find gusty thunderstorms and drenching rainfall as this is the first "weak spot" in the atmosphere and there is often a strong flow of air high in the atmosphere to "vent" the storms. This is essentially what is going this week and into the next from the Upper Midwest to the upper part of the Ohio Valley.
With the return of wet weather in the Northeast, many people are asking: When will the rain go away?
As a strong El Niño fades, the weather across the country will slowly change. In much of the eastern United States, a hot summer is in store.
A system with rain and thunderstorms will bring both good and bad news to the western United States later this week.
Plenty of warmth and sunshine will be in the forecast this Saturday as the 142nd running of the Kentucky Derby takes place at famed Churchill Downs in Louisville this Saturday.
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