From USA Today (Doyle Rice):
There was some good and some bad news in Thursday’s U.S. Drought Monitor, a weekly federal website that tracks drought.
The good news is that nationally, the percentage of the USA that’s considered either abnormally dry or in a drought dropped below 70 percent for the first time since June of last year. Recent rain and snow has helped ease drought conditions in the Mid-Atlantic, Southeast and Midwest, according to the monitor.
However, very dry conditions continued in parts of the Plains and the West. 100 percent of the states of Colo., S.D., Neb., Kan., Okla., and Iowa remain in a drought.
“The lack of snow continues to heighten concern across much of the West,” according to climatologist Mark Svoboda of the National Drought Mitigation Center in Lincoln, Neb.
Colorado in particular is extremely dry, he says.
From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Ryan Maye Handy):
“These are just based on computer models, nothing is guaranteed,” said Mark Wankowski, a meterologist with the National Weather Service in Pueblo. “Right now it’s not looking the best.”
Colorado is one of 10 states in the midst of an exceptionally severe drought, and more than half of the state is in the second-worst level of drought, according to a weekly report released Thursday by the National Drought Mitigation Center.
Last January, during what was the start of an already dry year, only a fraction of a percent of the state was in “extreme drought,” the second-driest classification used by the center after “exceptional drought.” This January, however, 58.6 percent of Colorado is painted red for “extreme” on the U.S. Drought Monitor’s map.
El Paso County is among those now plunged into a dry-spell that could mean disaster come wildfire season — all of the county is in extreme drought except for the southeast corner, which is “exceptional,” according to the report. It’s been a common theme this winter, said Wankowski…
The three-month prognosis, put together last week, is not good. Precipitation from February through April is expected to be lower than average, while temperatures should be higher than average, Wankowski said…
The record high temperatures and low precipitation for 2012 helped fuel one of the most devastating wildfire seasons on record, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. Last year, 67,000 wildfires consumed acreage and homes across the country.