Dry and hot days spell drought in Virginia and, with little rain in the forecast, conditions pose a severe threat to corn, wheat and barley, state agriculture officials said.
"We're on the edge of having a very severe crop problem," Daniel Brann of the Virginia Tech Extension Service said Monday. "If it rains in the next few days, we can make a decent crop, but it has to rain very soon."
The extremely dry heat cooking the state comes from a steady flow of warm air blowing up from the South, a National Weather Service official said.
The high pressure system was not forecast to move until midweek when temperatures are expected to drop by 10 degrees, the spokesman said.
A light rain is expected today, but "not enough to relieve the dry situation, just enough to settle the dust," he said.
The last time Richmond had a good soaking was March 29, when almost an inch of rain fell at Byrd International Airport.
The lack of rain is hurting the growth of small grain crops in Virginia like wheat and barley, said Stephen Williams, agriculture statistician for the Virginia Crop Reporting Service.
"In the early spring, we were in real good shape, but yields may be cut" because of the lack of rain, he said.
He said hay pastures are declining and that if no rain comes this week, potatoes may show signs of stunted growth.
Drought damage has reduced yields of corn, wheat and barley, Brann said, "but how severely at this point is unknown."
Recent temperatures in the 90s broke records in Richmond, Norfolk and Lynchburg, the weather service spokesman said.
Thermometers boiled to 96 degrees in Richmond, 94 in Norfolk and 92 in Lynchburg on Monday.
Record temperatures also occurred Sunday at Roanoke, with a high reading of 91, and Dulles International Airport, where the temperature reached 89.
An inch of rain "would get us by another week," Brann said. "The wheat and barley crop is under severe stress due to the drought. We need rain immediately for a good yield. I wouldn't say we've lost a crop yet."
The crops suffered in one of the state's worst frosts on April 9 and now is in the midst of one of the driest springs in the past 20 years, Brann said.
"Hopefully next week we'll get some rain," he said.