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Plains States Not Out of the Woods Yet

Dryness returns to Arkansas, expands in Kansas according to latest Drought Monitor

Published on: Jul 11, 2013

While much of the focus in recent weeks has been on the expanding drought in the Southwestern states, the Plains states aren't out of the woods yet, according to the latest statistics from the U.S. Drought Monitor, released Thursday.

For the High Plains, drought is holding steady from last week at about 66% -- still better than the 73% recorded at this time last year, but not good enough for celebration. In Kansas alone, drought expanded slightly but is still showing a gradient from east to west, with the western half of the state still experiencing extreme to exceptional drought.

Dryness also expanded significantly in Arkansas, now nearly covering the entire state. Though much of the state is rated as abnormally dry with small pockets of moderate drought, the summer is far from over.

Dryness returns to Arkansas, expands in Kansas
Dryness returns to Arkansas, expands in Kansas

The Southwest and West continues to suffer from expanding drought conditions. Oklahoma and Texas experienced conditions similar to those that caused the expansion of drought in Arkansas, consequently expanding D2-D0 conditions across the two states.

NOAA's Matthew Rosencrans explained that the impacts from the ongoing drought are becoming more intense as the drought lingers. For instance, he said, the Brazosport Water Authority implemented Stage 3 of its Drought Contingency Plan. Texas' Lake Travis and Lake Buchanan are at 35% and 37% of capacity, respectively.

Overall, the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service reports that the percent of topsoil reports as short or very short increased 13 percentage points across Texas and 25 percentage points across Oklahoma.

Some monsoon moisture has benefited the Southwest, though much moisture last week was confined to Southeastern Arizona and the highest terrain of New Mexico, leaving very little impact on the drought conditions in New Mexico.

Plains States Not Out of the Woods Yet

The West may also have several more weeks of drought and heat – the atmosphere is setting up for an extended heat wave for the remainder of July, said USDA meteorologist Brad Rippey.

That also has implications for range and pastureland and especially irrigated ag, which he said is experiencing strains on water demand.

Overall, 100% of the rangeland and pastures in California is rated very poor to poor. About 88% in New Mexico, 86% in Arizona and 72% of range and pastures in Colorado are also rated very poor to poor.

The drought is also creeping northward through the Intermountain West, Rippey notes, as Idaho, Wyoming and Oregon are now developing swaths of severe drought.

The silver lining for some, however, is that only 52% of the contiguous U.S. is experiencing some form of drought, compared to 76% at this time last year.