Oct. 19 U.S. Drought Update

Heavy rain fell across much of the Midwest, particularly in an area stretching from eastern Iowa to Michigan, which got upwards of 600% of typical precipitation for the week. Meanwhile, below-average rainfall across most of the Northeast, South, and Southeast contributed to an expansion of dry areas in these regions.

Dry conditions over the past few months led to the introduction of moderate drought from much of central and eastern Connecticut and northern Rhode Island northeastward to northern Middlesex County, Massachusetts. Farther north, abnormally dry conditions were expanded in southwestern Maine and over most of New Hampshire. Continuing dryness led to the expansion of moderate drought around Kennebec County south into northern York County.

The small area in western Virginia/extreme eastern West Virginia that had indicated normal conditions was downgraded to abnormal dryness, similar to the surrounding area. Similarly, in southwestern Virginia, Wise and southwestern Dickenson Counties also saw the introduction of abnormally dry conditions due to rainfall deficits combined with above-average temperatures. Abnormally dry conditions also expanded southeastward from South Carolina into eastern Georgia. To the southwest, another area of abnormal dryness was introduced. Abnormally dry conditions were also expanded in western Alabama.

Abnormal dryness was extended into part of northeastern Tennessee and in extreme northwestern Tennessee. Abnormal dryness in Mississippi was expanded west and northwestward. Dryness was also notable across most of Arkansas, where moderate drought conditions were expanded across most of the western half of the state. In neighboring Louisiana, abnormal dryness stretched across the northern region of the state near the I-20 corridor. Southern and eastern Texas saw some expansion of abnormal dryness and a bit of moderate drought—some areas that had been flooded by Hurricane Harvey have had less than an inch of rain recorded over the past 45 days.

Ohio saw slight improvements in the central portion of the state, where abnormal dryness contracted slightly. However, in the northwest of the state, abnormal dryness expanded a bit. Missouri also saw a northwestward expansion of abnormal dryness. Over the past 30 to 60 days, much of southwest, south central, and central Missouri has recorded rainfall totals 2 to 4 inches below normal.

Dry conditions improved in southeastern Nebraska and northeastern Kansas. In Kansas, moderate drought conditions improved in Marshall and Nemaha Counties, while the surrounding area returned to normal thanks to recent heavy rainfall. Conditions also improved to normal across a large swath from southeastern Kansas to northeastern Oklahoma, where up to 2 inches of rain fell over the past week. In southwest Colorado, abnormally dry conditions were expanded. Much of the Dakotas continued to see improvements, with recent rainfall helping to slowly alleviate ongoing drought conditions.

Montana is experiencing slowly improving conditions, including vegetation and soil moisture. This week, conditions improved enough such that exceptional drought (the direst category) in the north was improved one category to extreme drought. Overall in Montana, large deficits remain across the state, and wildfires continue to burn in areas. Areas of moderate drought in Oregon and southern Washington were upgraded to abnormally dry.

Looking ahead

For the week of Oct. 17-23, the extreme Northwest and the South/Southeast are likely to receive above-average precipitation, very heavy in the Northwest and up to 3 inches in parts of the South. Less than half an inch of precipitation is forecast across the mid-Atlantic states, the Northeast, and the High Plains into Montana. For Oct. 22-26, above-normal temperatures are expected over the western U.S, while parts of Texas may see below-average temperatures. Below-normal precipitation is also forecast for the western U.S. Looking even further out to the week of Oct. 24-30, most of the contiguous U.S. is favored to see below-average precipitation, while above-normal precipitation is favored across the Appalachians and eastward. The Great Lakes region is also favored to receive above-normal precipitation.

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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