Drought eases following recent rainsPublished 7:22am Friday, April 26, 2013
The drought has relaxed its grip on Minnesota, thanks to a prolonged snowmelt, ground thaw and April storms that delivered rain and snow.
The U.S. Drought Monitor this week lists Freeborn County as being in a moderate drought. Some counties — Fillmore, Houston, Olmsted, Goodhue, Winona and Wabasha counties and parts of Mower, Dakota and Scott counties are listed as normal.
The latest weekly update from the U.S. Drought Monitor shows just over half of the state is in a drought, down from nearly 67 percent last week. Conditions could improve more as recent snow starts to melt.
Many farmers still are waiting for that. Some who were done planting corn by this time last year haven’t even started this year.
The monitor says none of Minnesota is in extreme drought anymore, 16.36 percent is in severe drought, 35.04 percent in moderate drought and 23.91 as abnormally dry. Extreme drought still exists in western Minnesota and in a pocket in northern Minnesota that includes the Red Lake Indian Reservation.
For much of the winter, Freeborn County was listed in extreme drought, along with the southwestern quadrant of the state. That Red Lake region was also in extreme drought. In the first week of January, 25.17 percent of Minnesota was in extreme drought, 58.27 percent was in severe drought and the remainder was moderate drought or abnormally dry.
The monitor continued with that status right to early March, then in mid-March, the severity let up slightly. The major change came last week, when the U.S. Drought Monitor, which is administered at the University of Nebraska, removed the extreme drought listing from Minnesota altogether. Freeborn County was marked in a severe drought instead. Either all or part of the county had been in extreme drought since the first week of September.
And all or part of Freeborn County had been listed as severe drought or worse since the fourth week of July. In the third week of July, southern Freeborn County was in a moderate drought and northern Freeborn County was abnormally dry.
Minnesota went into the spring and summer of 2012 already reeling from drought conditions. Much of the winter of 2011-2012 was spent in either moderate drought or severe drought. Freeborn County was in severe drought that winter.
It has been since September 2011 that Freeborn County did not have drought status. It was listed as abnormally dry the last week of that month. The last time the entire county was listed as normal was mid-August 2011.
The recent storms may have messed up some spring plans, but they did some good for agriculture.
“Heavy rain and wet snow eased long-term drought across western and northern portions” of the Midwest,” said the U.S. Drought Monitor.
The recent storms have lessened drought conditions across much of Iowa, too, but the Great Plains states of South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Wyoming and Colorado continue to suffer extreme or exceptional drought levels.
U.S. Drought Monitor levels
Abnormally dry: Going into drought: short-term drying slowing planting, growth of crops or pastures. Coming out of drought: some lingering water deficits; pastures or crops not fully recovered.
Moderate drought: Some damage to crops, pastures; streams, reservoirs or wells low, some water shortages developing or imminent; voluntary water-use restrictions requested.
Severe drought: Crop or pasture losses likely; water shortages common; water restrictions imposed.
Extreme drought: Major crop and pasture losses; widespread water shortages or restrictions.
Exceptional drought: Exceptional and widespread crop and pasture losses; shortages of water in reservoirs, streams and wells creating water emergencies.