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Drought improves in some spots, but dry West a concern

11:37 PM, Jan 24, 2013   |    comments
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By Doyle Rice, USA TODAY 

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.

"Concerns are water supply related, given the depletion of reservoirs, stream and groundwater levels that would continue to be a concern for both the Missouri and Upper Colorado Basins," he says. "This would hamper irrigation allocation and/or delivery for agriculture, urban and tourism interests this summer if we stay dry."

Svoboda added that there is "strong potential for significant hydrological impacts early on this summer" as the drought continues in the Midwest and central and northern Plains.

"If we don't get our soil moisture levels up during this off-season recharge period, we will be living rain event to event much earlier than last year and heat waves can be expected," he says.

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