Folks in the Southwest continue to be plagued by drought retreating from the Plains and showing up in portions of Texas and New Mexico, but recent rains have been beneficial.
Overall, slight improvements cut the percentage of land area in some form of drought to 44.11% this week, compared to 44.34% last week. Those improvements are small, but much better compared to 61% that was charted in January.
Heavy rains last week hit the Plains, further developing a sharp gradient across Kansas and Nebraska and especially Oklahoma.
In El Reno, Okla., the Drought Monitor reports 30-day rainfall accumulation was more than 12 inches, while neighboring Watonga, Okla., received only 2.4 inches. More than 6 inches fell on Kansas, leading to one-category improvements. The western portion of the state continues in long-term drought, while the eastern portion fairs much better.
Texas also saw improvements, though rains were all over the board throughout much of the state. While the panhandle improved, long-term dryness took over in west and north-central Texas.
Here's a look at the U.S. Drought Monitor map for this week (top) as a comparison to last week (bottom).
Further west, most of the area was generally dry with the exception of Montana and northern Wyoming. Portions of Montana alone received eight inches of rain. Extreme drought was eradicated along with Wyoming-Montana border.
Conditions are not improving across southern Idaho and southeastern Oregon, as a result of below-normal precipitation. California is also suffering from some wildfires and below-normal precipitation.
Meanwhile, heavy rains have Midwestern farmers searching for a short window to get in the field, USDA meteorologist Brad Rippey said Tuesday. He speculated that at the end of the week and into early next week some of the better-drained soils will be able to support planting equipment.
Until fields dry out, however, he expects "a slow slog through the mud for the remaining acreage, especially for soybeans across the heart of the Midwest."
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