Bloomberg News

U.S. Drought Monitor Report for the Week Ending May 21 (Text)

May 23, 2013

Following is the text of the weekly U.S. Drought Monitor as released by the National Drought Mitigation Center in Lincoln, Nebraska:

Weather Summary:  For several days in mid-May, corn planting and
other Midwestern fieldwork accelerated in advance of a
developing storm.  Producers planted 43% of the U.S. corn crop
during the week ending May 19, tying a weekly record set from
May 4-10, 1992.  However, heavy rain eventually overspread the
northern Plains and Midwest, halting planting progress but
providing further drought relief or eradication.  The same storm
responsible for the rain in the north-central U.S. contributed
to a multi-day severe weather outbreak.  Iowa’s longest stretch
without a tornado (359 days from May 25, 2012, to May 18, 2013)
ended when several twisters were spotted on May 19.  Previously,
Iowa’s longest spell of tornado-free weather lasted 355 days in
1955-56.  One day after Iowa’s tornadoes, tragedy struck Moore,
Oklahoma, on May 20 in the form of a devastating EF-5 twister--
the nation’s first category five event since a similarly
powerful tornado struck El Reno, Oklahoma, on May 24, 2011.

Several days of warmth preceded the storm across the western and
central U.S.  On May 14, a phenomenal surge of heat reached the
central Plains and western Corn Belt, resulting in several
monthly record highs and widespread readings above 100°F.
Later, triple-digit heat developed and persisted in the south-
central U.S.  In addition, rainfall largely bypassed the
southern High Plains, resulting in further deterioration in the
condition of rangeland, pastures, and winter wheat.  Hot, mostly
dry weather also prevailed from California into the Southwest.
Farther north, however, scattered showers provided beneficial
moisture for crops and pastures in the Northwest.  More
significant precipitation dampened the northern Intermountain
West, particularly across portions of Wyoming and southern
Montana.

The East:  Varying amounts of rain fell across the East during
the drought-monitoring period.  Little or no rain fell in the
Northeastern areas of dryness (D0) and moderate drought (D1),
except in northern New England.  As a result, previously
existing areas of dryness were bridged across Pennsylvania and
New York.  In New England, March 1 - May 21 precipitation
totaled less than 6 inches in locations such as Portland, Maine
(5.85 inches, or 52% of normal), and Providence, Rhode Island
(5.83 inches, or 50 percent).  Farther south, scattered showers
and thunderstorms brought localized relief from dryness to the
central Appalachians and the eastern Carolinas.  Meanwhile,
short-term rainfall deficits allowed for some development of
abnormal dryness in southern Alabama and western Florida.  In
Dothan, Alabama, March 1 - May 21 rainfall totaled just 5.56
inches (49 percent of normal).

The Upper Midwest:  Prior to the arrival of wet weather, sharp
temperature fluctuations were noted in the upper Midwest.
Following a late-season freeze on May 12, temperatures briefly
soared.  Tekamah, Nebraska, experienced a high of 108°F on May
14, eclipsing its monthly record of 105°F originally set on May
31, 1934.  A monthly record from the Dust Bowl era (105°F on May
30, 1934) was also broken in Sioux City, Iowa, where the May 14
high soared to 106°F.  In fact, there had never been a reading
of 105°F or greater in Iowa before May 29; Sac City had achieved
a high of 108°F on May 29, 1934.  In Nebraska, records for the
earliest triple-digit heat were set on May 14 in locations such
as Grand Island (102°F), Omaha (101°F), and Lincoln (100°F);
Grand Island’s record had stood since May 20, 1925.  Several
days later, showers and thunderstorms engulfed the upper
Midwest, leading to significant reductions in the coverage and
intensity of any lingering drought.  Some of the heaviest rain
fell in Minnesota, as well as neighboring areas in northern Iowa
and northwestern Wisconsin.  Rochester, Minnesota, in a part of
the state no longer categorized as abnormally dry, set records
for May (8.55 inches) and March-May precipitation (18.19
inches).  Rochester’s previous records had been 8.41 inches in
1982 and 15.87 inches in 2001, respectively.  With a total of
2.43 inches of rain on May 17, Rochester experienced its third-
wettest day in May, behind 4.02 inches on May 17, 2000, and 2.97
inches on May 20, 1912.

The Great Plains:  The gradient between improving conditions and
worsening drought continued to sharpen.  A winter-like storm
delivered widespread, heavy precipitation (locally 4 inches or
more) to the north-central U.S., including the Dakotas and parts
of Montana and Nebraska.  Significant rain also fell across the
southeastern Plains, including central and eastern Oklahoma and
northeastern Texas.  In contrast, little or no precipitation
fell across the southern High Plains.  As a result, there were
major reductions in drought coverage and intensity on the
northern and southeastern Plains, but an increase in the areal
coverage of exceptional drought (D4) and other drought
categories on the southern High Plains.  In Texas, the portion
of the winter wheat rated very poor to poor increased from 44 to
76% between March 17 and May 19, according to USDA.  Although
some of the winter wheat deterioration was due to drought, a
series of spring freezes also harmed the crop.  Meanwhile, at
least one-third of the rangeland and pastures were rated very
poor to poor by May 19 in every Plains State except North
Dakota.  Lingering dismal pasture conditions in states such as
Nebraska (69% very poor to poor) and South Dakota (51%) are due
to the harm inflicted by the historic 2012 drought, in
combination with a cool spring that delayed greening of grasses.

The West:  Substantial precipitation fell during the monitoring
period across the northern Intermountain West.  Widespread
totals in excess of 2 inches were noted in Wyoming and southern
Montana, while 1- to 2-inch totals were reported in parts of
northern Utah and eastern Idaho.  As a result, there were
reductions in the intensity of moderate to extreme drought (D1
to D3) in some of the wettest areas.  However, the storm
responsible for the heavy precipitation did not appreciably
change spring and summer runoff forecasts, leaving varying
degrees of long-term drought largely intact.  Farther south, dry
weather led to little or no change in the drought depiction.  On
May 19, USDA reported that at least 40% of the rangeland and
pastures were rated very poor to poor in seven of the eleven
Western States.  New Mexico topped the list, with 98% of its
rangeland and pastures rated very poor to poor, followed by
Nevada (69%), Arizona (63%), Colorado (48%), Montana (47%),
Wyoming (46%), and California (40%).  In addition, below-average
statewide reservoir storage affected five Western States:
Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Oregon.  Near-average
overall storage should serve as a buffer against drought in the
other Western States (California, Idaho, Montana, Utah, and
Wyoming), except Washington, where reservoir storage was above
average and there was no drought.

Hawaii, Alaska and Puerto Rico:  There were no changes to the
depictions for Hawaii, Alaska, and Puerto Rico.  Hawaii’s
western islands (Oahu westward) remain free of dryness and
drought.  However, islands from Maui eastward are still
experiencing significant drought in leeward areas.  USDA
reported that recent rainfall in windward and mountain sections
of Maui allowed for “improvement of pasture conditions in most
areas.”  The same report indicated that southern sections of
Maui and Molokai had received some recent rain, but that those
areas had previously dried out, “with no green forage for
several months.”  Meanwhile, Alaska was locked into an unusually
cold weather pattern, with little precipitation reported in
existing areas of abnormal dryness (D0) and moderate drought
(D1).  And, like last week, there was no drought (or dryness) in
depicted in Puerto Rico.

Looking Ahead:  During the next 5 days (May 23-27), the slow-
moving storm system that has been affecting the Midwest--and was
responsible for the tragic tornado in Moore, Oklahoma--will
drift eastward.  The system will reach the Atlantic Seaboard by
May 24.  Additional rainfall totals--in the form of locally
severe thunderstorms--could reach 1 to 3 inches in the
Northeast, and cool air will trail the storm into the Midwest
and East.   Meanwhile, an early-season heat wave will develop on
the High Plains.  During the Memorial Day weekend (May 25-27),
temperatures will approach or reach 100°F as far north as the
central High Plains.  Elsewhere, cool, showery weather will
persist in the Northwest, while thundershowers will return to
the Plains.  More substantial rain (possibly 1 to 3 inches) may
develop during the Memorial Day weekend in the western Corn
Belt, including parts of Iowa and eastern Nebraska.
The NWS 6- to 10-day outlook for May 28 - June 1 calls for
above-normal temperatures from the Plains to the East Coast,
while cooler-than-normal conditions will prevail in the West.
Meanwhile, below-normal rainfall across most of the southern
half of the U.S. will contrast with wetter-than-normal weather
across the nation’s northern tier from the Pacific Northwest to
the Great Lakes region.

To contact the reporter on this story: Stephen Rose in Washington at srose31@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Marco Babic at mbabic@bloomberg.net


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