When it comes to precipitation, 2015 has been a year of feast or famine in Northeast Missouri. And considering that Monday, Oct. 19, marked the one month anniversary since Hannibal's last measurable rainfall, it's safe to say America's Hometown is in the “famine” part of the moisture cycle.

When it comes to precipitation, 2015 has been a year of feast or famine in Northeast Missouri. And considering that Monday, Oct. 19, marked the one month anniversary since Hannibal’s last measurable rainfall, it’s safe to say America’s Hometown is in the “famine” part of the moisture cycle.

“A lot of times we will see some pretty steady rain in the fall, but we’ve gotten into a pattern where we have not seen a lot of rain in the past couple of months,” said Mark Britt, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s St. Louis office.

For the record, Hannibal is still some 5 inches ahead of normal for the year. According to the Hannibal Filter Plant, the city has totaled 39.56 inches of precipitation this year. Normal amounts to 34.31 inches.

The bulk of 2015’s surplus came during the exceptionally wet months of June (13.37 inches) and July (10.71 inches).

“In August things really fell off,” said Britt, noting that just 1.93 inches of precipitation fell in August and only 1.66 inches in September.

The Hannibal Filter Plant reports that the last measurable rainfall was the 0.27 of an inch which fell on Sept. 19.

Things have dried out to such an extent that Northeast Missouri is now showing up on the U.S. Drought Monitor.

“They have put Northeast Missouri into the first category, which is considered abnormal dry,” said Britt. “I believe Hannibal has been in that for the past couple of weeks.”

There is a glimmer of hope later this week that rain will return to Twainland.

“The best chance of rain will be as a cold front moves through the area Friday night into Saturday when chances will be about 50 percent,” said Britt.

In the meantime, Northeast Missouri remains a tinderbox. Conditions reached a point Monday that the National Weather Service issued a “Red Flag Warning” for the Central and Northeast Missouri, as well as West Central Illinois.

“You certainly don’t see them (Red Flag Warnings) very often, especially in Northeast Missouri. Certainly the dry conditions are a big factor in that,” said Britt, explaining that Red Flag conditions require three factors – dry vegetation, low relative humidity and winds sustained over 15 mph.

The Red Flag isn’t expected to fly again on Tuesday.

“One thing that is happening over the next couple of days will be higher relative humidities from the southwest,” said Britt.

Until fire conditions improve the Hannibal Fire Department and Hannibal Rural Fire Protection District have issued burn bans. Hannibal Rural firefighters spent a portion of Monday afternoon battling a blaze on Trabue Lane in Ralls County.

In addition, the Ralls County Commission sent out a release Monday afternoon prohibiting outdoor burning in unincorporated areas in the county. Forbidden under the ban are fireworks, open fires or camp fires, except in permanent stoves or fireplaces or attended barbecue grills. Also not allowed is the burning of fence rows, fields, wildlands, trash or debris, unless specifically approved in writing by the county director of emergency management or other authorized county authority.

The Missouri Department of Conservation’s Forestry Division reports that the main cause of wildfires is improper burning of debris such as trash and brush piles. It offered the following suggestions regarding outdoor burning:

• Do not conduct outdoor burning during times when grasses, brush and other fire fuel are very dry, humidity is low and weather is windy.

• Dry fuel combined with high temperatures, low humidity and high winds make fire nearly impossible to control.

• Check with local fire departments regarding burn bans and local ordinances.

• A person who starts a fire for any reason is responsible for any damage it may cause.

Reach reporter Danny Henley at danny.henley@courierpost.com