drought ground

Tropical Storm Cindy brings relief to dry areas

High Plains continues to suffer as precipitation scarce.

All substantial precipitation over the past week fell over the eastern half and southern portion of the United States, largely due to Tropical Storm Cindy, according to the June 27 “National Drought Summary” report.

“The storm made landfall near the Louisiana-Texas border on June 22, bringing heavy rains and subsequent flooding to parts of the South and the Ohio Valley. Dry areas in the path of Cindy saw immediate improvements, as reflected on this week’s drought map,” the report stated.

NOAA

Despite some regions receiving some relief from the precipitation, author Jessica Blunden, climate scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and National Centers for Environmental Information, said heat and lack of rain dominated from the West to the central and south central U.S, with temperatures rising into the 90s, 100s, and even into the 120s in some areas, with many temperature records broken. This led to some quickly deteriorating conditions across the heart of the country, she said.

“Although temperatures were well below normal in the Northern Plains from the 23rd through the 27th, this did not help conditions; unfortunately there was little to no accompanying rain.”

In the Southeast, the report said moisture from Cindy brought widespread heavy rains to alleviate lingering drought and dryness in several locations.

“The rain was enough to wash away all D1 and substantially shrink the remaining abnormally dry region in northwestern Alabama into northeastern Mississippi,” Blunden noted.

Moderate drought conditions were alleviated in several counties, where precipitation has been up to around 250% of average over the past month. The area of abnormal dryness that remains is related to long-term deficits, which more bouts of normal to above-normal rainfall will help improve, the report added.

According to Blunden, there was a mixed bag of precipitation totals across the South region over the past week due to Cindy. The amounts ranged from nothing or very little in most of Oklahoma and parts of south central and west Texas to around 4-6 inches in parts of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Arkansas. As expected, this led to improvements in some areas and rather widespread degradation in others.

“Unfortunately, this past week's rain was inadequate to ameliorate large deficits loom since the beginning of May in Oklahoma, with the prime rainy season (May through mid-June) disappointing for much of the state, especially central Oklahoma,” Blunden reported.

Due to the rapidly deteriorating conditions, abnormal dryness (D0) was introduced across large portions, with already existing moderate drought (D1) expanding in the central part of the state, where drier conditions were present. “Moderate drought was expanded to encompass more of Grady County, for example, reflecting reports of failed crops and inability to plan.”

The report said dry creek beds have been noted by locals in the western half of Roger Mills County.

“On-the-ground observations indicate that stock ponds are rapidly shrinking and grass is turning yellow,” Blunden noted.

The Midwest saw adequate rainfall across most of the region. Blunden said Southern Ohio received enough precipitation to remove the abnormal dryness (D0) from the southern region, although the report noted that it remains in the Toledo area to the north where deficits are as much as 3 inches over the past month. In Iowa, abnormal dryness (D0) was extended to the south in western Shelby, eastern Harrison, and northwestern Pottawattamie Counties where rainfall over the past month has been less than 50% of average.

The High Plains continues to suffer as much needed rainfall was unfortunately scarce over most of the region during the past week. Combined with a heat wave early in the period with temperatures reaching into the 100’s (°F) in some areas, Blunden reported that conditions worsened in many parts. North Platte, Neb., for example, tied a June record on the 21st, reaching 107°F.

“Abnormally dry conditions now encompass most of the state, save for the far west and parts of the far east. These conditions also extended southward into Kansas, which also saw abnormal dryness extended in the far southwest,” Blunden noted. “The most deterioration, however, occurred in the Dakotas, especially northwestern South Dakota and North Dakota, where the rapidly worsening conditions warranted expansion of moderate, severe, and extreme drought to many regions.”

Extreme drought (D3) was expanded across a large section of western North Dakota and extended into Montana. A county agent from McIntosh County reported that soil moisture is absent and crop and pasture losses are expected. Additionally, Blunden said some producers are now having to haul water, and hay is less than half of normal. Pastures also have zero regrowth, she added.

“The one bright spot for the week in this region was southeastern Kidder and southwestern Sherman Counties: moderate drought (D1) improved to abnormally dry (D0) conditions.”

In the southwest and west, conditions were hot and dry over the past week, but Blunden said this is the dry season in much of the area.

Pacific Coast States are still seeing surpluses given the heavy rains and large snowpacks earlier this year. While no changes were made to most of the area, dryland producers in eastern Montana, according to local experts, continue to feel the impact of drought, even with recent cooler-than-average temperatures.

Blunden said abnormally dry (D0), moderate drought (D1), and severe drought (D2) were all expanded to the south and to the west.

“Conditions here and in the Dakotas have deteriorated quickly over the past few weeks and this flash drought will continue to be monitored closely in the midst of the growing season.”

What’s ahead

According to Blunden, June 27 and 28 saw a pattern of below-average temperatures in the East and above-average temperatures in the West. Welcome precipitation fell across large parts of the Northern Plains and Midwest, notably in central to eastern North Dakota, parts of southern south Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota, and Iowa. Rain also fell in the upper Northeast and in the far South from southern Texas to Florida.

During the next five days (June 29-July 4), Blunden said temperatures will be warm, mainly in the upper 80s and higher, across the southern tier of the U.S. but also extending northward to Nebraska, Wyoming, Montana and the Dakotas.

But, areas needing a lot of precipitation to alleviate drought conditions may not see much, Blunden reported.

“Half an inch of rain or less is forecast over Montana and most of North and South Dakota. However, northern Minnesota may see over an inch. It also appears that eastern Nebraska, Iowa, northeastern Kansas, eastern Oklahoma may get some much needed rainfall, as much as 9 inches in localized areas of Oklahoma,” she said.

Looking further ahead into the second week period, Blunden said above-average temperatures are favored across the entire contiguous U.S.

“Potential above-average rainfall is possible in the eastern half of the U.S. from South Carolina to southern New York, extending west through Missouri, while below-normal precipitation is favored across the north from Washington to Minnesota and south to northern Colorado and much of Nebraska. Below-average precipitation is also favored at this time for Texas, Louisiana, and southern mississippi and Alabama.”

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