Sunny days put a spring in the Valley

Farmers are planting their crops earlier than usual.
ORGIVE THOSE IN THE Mahoning Valley who start singing the opening line to the "Sesame Street" theme song.
After all, it's not often that the Valley is blessed in April with so many "sunny days sweeping the clouds away."
April didn't get off to a promising start as 2.4 inches of snow fell April 2, and 6.1 inches of snow hit the Valley the next day.
But except for a trace of rain April 7, it's been dry since April 4, according to the National Weather Service, and it's been sunny for well over a week.
The agency doesn't keep sunshine records for the Mahoning Valley. But Walter Fitzgerald, a NWS meteorologist in Cleveland, said it's been an unusually long period of sunshine for April in Northeast Ohio.
The NWS forecast for the Valley calls for it to remain dry and sunny until Wednesday, but, of course, there are no guarantees, Fitzgerald said.
April showers
NWS records for the previous eight Aprils show that the last time there were seven dry days in a row during the month was in 2000, and that was the last seven days of April. The most consecutive dry days in April 2004 were four, between the 15th and the 18th.
The dry and sunny days mean Valley farmers are getting a head start on planting corn and soybeans, two of the area's main crops, said Ernie Oelker, educator at The Ohio State University Cooperative Extension's Columbiana County branch.
"The dry soil conditions allow farmers to get out and plant early," he said. "They got started early this week when typically they have to wait until the first week in May or the last week in April. The soil is dry and warm with all the sunny weather."
The early planting could lead to larger crop production, Oelker said.
"If the weather continues to cooperate, there could be high yields," he said.
Welcome break
The weather has also helped with road construction projects, said Paula Putnam, a spokeswoman with the Ohio Department of Transportation's District 4 office, which includes Mahoning and Trumbull counties.
"This good weather has allowed us to get much more work done," she said. "For instance, the emergency culvert replacement project on state Route 534 in Mahoning County, in Goshen Township just north of the Columbiana County line, will be opened by" today, she said.
The bad weather during the end of March postponed the project's start date, Putnam said.
"But this good weather has allowed us to be done in just a little over three weeks," she said.
The nice weather is allowing road crews to start improvement projects a few weeks ahead of schedule, Putnam said. ODOT is working on $85 million worth of projects in Mahoning County, and $52.7 million worth of projects in Trumbull County this year, she said.
"The weather has opened things up for us," she said. "It is absolutely helping us."

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