Aug. 17 U.S. Drought Update

Cooler temperatures and more rain marked the week for much of the contiguous U.S., ranging from rainfall more than 600% of normal across northern Texas and much of Oklahoma to continued below-average rainfall in southern Texas, parts of the Midwest, Northeast, and Northwest.

Moderate drought conditions expanded through the central coastal counties of Maine, and abnormally dry conditions were notable in southeastern Massachusetts down to the Cape Cod Canal and across southern Rhode Island.

In the southern eastern coastal plains of North Carolina, abnormally dry conditions were alleviated by 2-inch-plus rainfall. However, some areas of Chatham, Lee, Randolph, and Moore Counties saw abnormally dry conditions introduced. In Virginia, heavy rainfall over the past week improved short-term dry conditions in southern coastal regions and part of the southwest.

Heavy rains across much of this region resulted in all dryness being completely alleviated across several broad swaths and two- and three-category drought improvements in Oklahoma. Two-category improvements were also notable around the Texas panhandle. Conditions returned to normal at the Texas-Louisiana-Arkansas border and in part of east-central northern Mississippi. However, abnormally dry conditions expanded slightly in northeastern Mississippi.

Abnormal dryness was introduced in northeastern Ohio. In Michigan, abnormally dry conditions expanded northward to Kalamazoo, Barry, eastern Kent, southern Montcalm, Shiawassee, Clinton, and southwestern Genesee Counties. Similarly, short-term dryness is now evident in part of central to west central Indiana. In two small regions of southern Iowa, conditions deteriorated to extreme drought. Moderate drought expanded in southwestern and far northeastern Iowa. However, 2-inch-plus rainfall improved conditions in the northwestern part of the state. Moderate drought now encompasses all of Marshall County in northwestern Minnesota.

Conditions returned to normal in northwestern Kansas along the Nebraska border and across extreme southern Kansas, as well as in the Nebraska panhandle. In southwestern Nebraska, moderate drought shrank in some areas. Heavy rain erased remaining dryness in Laramie County, Wyoming. Conditions improved to abnormally dry in central Nebraska. Some areas in South Dakota received 3 to 7 inches of rain over the past week, contributing to improving conditions in some northeastern, north central, and south-central pockets. However, the west was not as fortunate—extreme drought creeped farther west in Meade County, while severe drought expanded in Jackson. In southwestern North Dakota, rainfall helped alleviate exceptional drought, although it remained in the Hettinger County area. Conditions also improved in Colorado, where normal conditions returned around the Denver metro area and the northeastern corner of the state.

Drought conditions in in far southern California and in eastern Nevada into western Utah, as abnormally dry conditions returned to normal in most of region. Conditions also returned to normal in the Unita Mountains at the Utah/Wyoming border. In Montana, abnormally dry conditions extended southward to the Wyoming border. Ninety-eight percent of the topsoil in Montana is rated short to very short, and fire danger is high.

Looking ahead

For the week of August 16-23, rain is forecast across most of the contiguous United States, with heavy rainfall in some areas that will significantly benefit: much of the Plains, parts of the Midwest, and across much of the East Coast.

Drought occurs periodically across the nation and can cause devastation for crops, residents, and wildlife—even if it's only temporary. Other parts of the nation, such as California and, more recently, the South, are plagued by drought. Long-term drought impacts the economy, agriculture, and the daily lives of residents. These conditions also increase the risks and devastation from wildfires. In such desperate conditions, community and state leaders have implemented plans to conserve water and replenish natural sources through desalination, rationing, recycling, reusing, and even purchasing water from other locations. Water rationing for both residents and businesses disrupts productivity and the local economy. Manufacturers are turning to self-sustained methods for maintaining production capacity, such as zero liquid discharge (ZLD) and water reuse systems for their process water. Residents are required to limit watering, swap out foliage for drought-resistant plants, and more.

Data retrieved from United States Drought Monitor.

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