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Heavier rains in the forecast should help charge soil moisture and chip away at drought conditions

Even with improvements since late August, drought conditions remain a serious issue in much of the region. But StormTRACKER meteorologist Jesse Ritka said some storms in the forecast could help

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The past week has been fairly dry in the region, which has caused the soil moisture percentile in many areas to drop, StormTRACKER meteorologist Jesse Ritka says.

Tracing the drought since early spring, Ritka said the conditions started out dry and continued to worsen through a hot, dry summer. Beneficial rain in late August and into September cleared out much of the exceptional drought in North Dakota and Minnesota.

"We are gradually chipping away at those drought conditions," she said.

However, extreme drought remains across much of the region, and the past dry week didn't improve conditions any. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor , much of the region remained significantly warmer than average this week.

The needs of livestock producers remain at the forefront. Julie Ellingson, executive vice president of the North Dakota Stockmen's Association, addressed the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water and Power on Wednesday, Oct. 6, about the drought's impacts on ranchers and how ranchers can help with federal water and land management. Also this week, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz signed his third drought-related transportation order to help livestock producers.

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But Ritka sees a change coming, as soon as this weekend. Heavy rain is expected this weekend and again next week. The rain, she said, is expected to fall "in places where we certainly need some moisture."

On the backside of the rain events, Ritka expects temperatures will "feel a little bit more like October."

Here's a state-by-state look at this week's U.S. Drought Monitor:

Iowa: Iowa got just a little bit drier over the past week, overall, with the total percentage of the state abnormally dry or worse increasing from 75.6% to 80.65%. Temperatures were far above normal in the state this week.

Minnesota: Conditions continue to slowly improve in Minnesota, with extreme drought dropping from 23.58% to 17.58%. The percentage of the state that has come out of drought conditions rose from 6.5% to 9.8%.

Montana: Montana's conditions continue to worsen by the week. The entire state remains in severe drought or worse, and the percentage in extreme drought jumped from 43.77% to 47.35%. Exceptional drought again covers 21.91% of the state.

Nebraska: Nebraska saw some areas of improvement and some areas getting drier this week. Exceptional drought increased 0.72% to 2.13%, but the percentage of the state out of any drought conditions increased from 14.89% to 21.77%. Central and northeastern parts of the state saw beneficial rain, while the panhandle area dried out further.

North Dakota: North Dakota mostly held steady this week, with just a slight shift of land from extreme drought to severe drought. The state still has 99.76% of land abnormally dry or worse, with 0.43% in exceptional drought along the Montana border.

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South Dakota: Like its neighbor to the south, South Dakota saw some areas improve while others got drier. The percentage of the state in extreme drought increased slightly, from 10.76% to 11.62%. However, the overall percentage of the state in abnormally dry or worse conditions dropped from 92.94% to 91.67%.

Wisconsin: Wisconsin saw more land moved into the abnormally dry category this week, from 16% to 28.26%, mostly confined to the northern portions of the state.

Related Topics: AGRICULTUREWEATHERDROUGHT
Jenny Schlecht is the editor of Agweek and Sugarbeet Grower Magazine. She lives on a farm and ranch near Medina, North Dakota, with her husband and two daughters. You can reach her at jschlecht@agweek.com or 701-595-0425.
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