Drought conditions are improving across much of the nation's midsection and western region, according to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor, released Thursday.
Light to moderate rains returned one-category improvements across the Dakotas, central Nebraska and northwestern Kansas, also improving soil moisture recharge.
Strong precipitation totals put a dent in the medium to long-term deficits, according to Drought Monitor authors David Miskus with NOAA and Brad Rippey with the USDA. They report that the totals have NASS/USDA state topsoil moisture rated short to very short declining by 6 to 9 points from last week. North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska were at 18, 56, and 52% as of Sep. 29, respectively.
Farther south in Oklahoma and Texas, an inflow of Gulf moisture generated showers and thunderstorms. With the rains, most parts of Oklahoma and Texas improved a category where the greatest amounts fell or remained the same, except where little or no rain fell. A slight D3 increase in northwest Texas and central Oklahoma Panhandles, and D0 and D1 increase was noted in extreme southwest Texas.
In the Delta, between 2 and 4 inches of rain was reported in eastern Texas, western Louisiana, and southwestern Arkansas, and farther east in central Mississippi, resulting in a 1-category improvement as the rains created surpluses at some locations at 60- and 90-days, Miskus and Rippey report.
D0 and D1 in Louisiana and Mississippi, and the D0 in west-central Alabama was trimmed as well. However, south-central Arkansas and north-central Louisiana are still experiencing the effects of lingering deficits.
In the Midwest and across Tennessee and Kentucky, a slow moving cold front brought moderate rains, though for a majority of the region, rains were only enough to keep conditions steady. As of Sep. 29, topsoil moisture from NASS/USDA rated short or very short increased a few points from the previous week in Minnesota, Michigan, and Illinois to 52, 43, and 70%, respectively. Although Iowa slightly improved this week, the state's topsoil moisture was still rated as 75% short or very short, the authors report.
In the West, monsoon rains have quieted, leaving behind effects of ample rains. With plenty of improvements made during the past several weeks and normal rainfall declining during the fall months, no changes were made across the southern tier of states this week.
A moisture-laden storm system, however, dumped more than 2 inches of precipitation on northwestern California, most of Oregon, western and extreme eastern Washington, the northern three-fourths of Idaho, western Montana, and northwestern Wyoming.
Unfortunately, the heavy rains and strong winds that accompanied the storm resulted in flash flooding, mudslides, wind damage, and power outages, but a 1- and occasionally 2-category improvement was made where the heaviest precipitation fell.