Precipitation cut the percentage of the United States experiencing at least moderate drought conditions by almost two percent, particularly aiding areas in the central and eastern parts of the country.

Data shows drought eased incrementally across the Midwest, Great Plains and South, reducing the percentage of the country in moderate drought or worse to almost 37 percent.

Drought covers smallest area since May 2012Conditions are drastically better than a year earlier when almost 64 percent of the contiguous U.S. was experiencing at least moderate drought. Current data shows only 0.29% of the contiguous U.S. is in exceptional drought compared to over six percent a year ago.

Winter storm Atlas produced up to four feet of snow in parts of western South Dakota and Nebraska, leaving livestock producers to recover as many animals were still in summer pastures.

Rural areas in states where drought conditions haven’t improved are dipping further into low reservoirs and will likely push their recovery time back even further. Notably less precipitation kept drought conditions unchanged in several states to the west including California and Nevada.

“So far this year, less than half of normal precipitation has been reported in the southwestern half of Nevada and all but the southern and northern extremes of California, along with isolated sections of the Intermountain West,” said Rich Tinker, this week’s U.S. Drought Monitor author. “Only about 25 percent of normal has been reported for the last 9 ½ months in much of central and western California.”

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Southeastern Texas is set for more good news on the heels of a heavy dose of rain that delivered between four and 10 inches of rain last week. The Drought Monitor expects the area to see moderate-to-heavy precipitation in the next five days.

Many states in the Southwest are worried more severe drought conditions will return, although the National Drought Mitigation Center reports a small area in central Arkansas was the only zone where conditions were worse than the week before.