Drought’s march to the east slowed by rain

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click image to zoomDrought MonitorThe Drought Monitor map, released on Aug. 1, 2013. Much-needed rain soaked many areas in the Southwest and Midwest, some receiving more than 6 inches of rain over the last week. The welcomed rain dented the drought in some of the hardest-hit states, while momentarily stopping it from expanding further into the Corn Belt.

Overall, the weekly Drought Monitor report showed a nation relishing in several wet storm systems. Nationally, 45.6 percent is moderate or worse drought, down from 46.5 percent last week and considerably lower than last year’s report of 63.9 percent.

Even with the rain, New Mexico continues its reign as the nation’s driest state. However, conditions are improving. Currently 73.5 percent is in extreme or exceptional drought, down from 80.1 percent last week.

The National Weather Service shows that light rain fell over much of the state with limited pockets of heavier rainfall. Even so, it will take a lot more rain to quench drought in the state.  In Taos County, ranchers seen drought threatening their viability. The dry conditions are forcing ranchers to continue to buy feed at record prices as their own alfalfa fields reduce yield to just fractions of normal.

“It’s pretty dire,” Sheryl LaRue, executive director of the Taos County Farm Services Administration office, told The Taos (N.M.) News in a report here.

The situation isn’t much better in Colorado, where nearly one-third of the state is in extreme or worse drought. The Denver Post reports that tempers are flaring between farmers and ranchers as they fight for precious irrigation water. In other areas of the state, there isn’t even enough water to incite such disagreements.

"There isn't much dispute here over water because there isn't any," Fort Lyon Canal Co. manager Wesley Eck said.

Read, “Tempers flaring in Colorado over diminished irrigation water.”

In Kansas, the heaviest rainfall soaked central parts of the state, with flooding causing evacuations and road closures. Unfortunately, the rain failed to impact much of the dry counties in the western half of the state. Forty-one percent of Kansas is in extreme or exceptional drought, down from 47 percent last week.

Drought still dominates in Nebraska, with 70 percent in severe or worse drought.  It may be the second summer for drought, but the lack of heat has made all the difference this year.

“The saving grace has been the temperatures,” Brian Fuchs, climatologist at the National Drought Mitigation Center, told the Omaha (Neb.) World-Herald.

 The rain also helped slow the drought from expanding further into the Corn Belt, including Iowa, Missouri, and Minnesota.

Read the full Drought Monitor report here.

However, good news is on the horizon for several dry areas.

“In the contiguous 48 states, drought improvement or removal is anticipated in typically monsoon-affected areas in the Southwest and southern Rockies as far west as central Arizona,” the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported in their latest “Monthly Drought Outlook” report. “ Drought should also improve across the central Plains from Nebraska, northeastern Colorado, and Missouri southward through central Arkansas, central Oklahoma, and the northern Texas Panhandle. where a stalled front should serve as a focus for rainfall during at least the first half of the month.  


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