Weekend Storm Dramatically Eased Drought on the Central Plains

Posted on Thu, 03/18/2021 - 11:53

A “vigorous and slow-moving” low pressure system brought widespread precipitation to the Central Rockies, Central Great Plains and Lower Missouri River Basin March 13-15, bringing the liquid equivalent of 2 to 6 inches of moisture, according to the National Drought Monitor. “The heavy snowfall brought snow water content close to average for mid-March across most of Colorado and Wyoming. This recent heavy precipitation also eliminated precipitation deficits and resulted in precipitation surpluses for the past 90 days for much of the central Plains. Therefore, a broad one-category improvement was made for areas that received 1 inch or more of precipitation,” today’s update detailed.

Top winter-wheat producing Kansas saw a 27.2-point dive in drought/abnormal dryness coverage, with just 45.1% of the state now impacted. Nebraska also recorded major improvement with 26.1% of the state now affected by some form of drought, a 53.7-point plunge from the week prior. The precipitation is especially timely with the winter wheat crop exiting dormancy and greening up.  

But the northern third of South Dakota and North Dakota missed out on the drought relief.

Drought improvement also occurred in the Texas Panhandle, with severe weather accompanying around an inch of rainfall. The one-category improvement extended east to parts of southwest Oklahoma. But in other areas of the southern Plains, western Gulf Coast, and lower Mississippi Valley, mostly dry weather prevailed along with above normal temperatures and periods of increased winds. Consequently, abnormal dryness and drought expanded across south-central Oklahoma and Texas.

A major storm also brought heavy precipitation to western Iowa and Missouri, resulting in one-category drought improvement for areas receiving more than 1.5 inches of moisture. But abnormal dryness expanded in northeast Missouri, merging into ongoing abnormal dryness in west-central Illinois. Moderate drought also expanded in northern Ohio, but southern areas of the state saw some reduction of abnormal dryness.

Drought Monitor

Drought change map