'Flash drought' finally eases in the Corn Belt

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Rain and snow helped ease drought conditions across the Plains and Midwest, but it wasn’t enough to fully end the drought.

click image to zoomDrought MonitorThe Drought Monitor map released on Nov. 14, 2013. According to the latest “Drought Monitor” report, just 31.8 percent of the Contiguous United States is in moderate or worse drown, down slightly from last week but much improved from the 58.8 percent reported last year.

Many states across the Corn Belt were dealt what experts called a “flash drought,” but this drought proved to end much slower than it started. However, rain and snow helped ease some of the drought.

Iowa is now free from extreme drought for the first time since mid-September. Currently 55 percent remains in moderate or severe drought, down from 68 percent reported last week.

Other states in the region showed similar improvements, including Minnesota, Wisconsin, Missouri and Illinois.

On the Plains, the changes in drought conditions were minimal – if at all. In Texas, rain helped but failed to come to areas needing it most.  A water specialist with the Texas Water Resources Institute warns that many reservoir levels were recharged in the last few months but still remain at critical levels, leaving hard choices for municipalities such as Wichita Falls, Texas.

Further to the west, drought conditions are left untouched. In Nevada (30 percent in extreme or worse drought) and Arizona (25 percent in severe drought), federal water managers are warning that the states have a 50-50 chances of having water deliveries cut in 2016 after years of drought.

In Coolidge, Ariz., Hohokam Irrigation District manager Sidney Smith said she’s been advising farmers to make sure their wells are working in case they lose Colorado River water and have to revert to pumping groundwater, according to the Laughlin Times.

“Basically if farming stops here, it’s going to hurt the whole community,” Smith said.

Read more.

The drought isn’t staying in the western half of the country though. Along the Eastern Seaboard, pockets of abnormal dryness, the lowest level of drought intensity reported, is also growing.  And unlike the heartland, the Monthly Drought Outlook expects drought to develop or persist In Massachusetts, New York, South Carolina and Georgia through the end of the month.

Click here to see the Monthly Drought Outlook or the Drought Monitor report.

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