storm clouds

Storm clouds hang low over a field of thirsty wheat near Lake Sakakawea.

Cooler weather and rain has not stopped the spread of extreme drought in North Dakota, according to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor update.

The map, which is released on Thursdays, shows a slight increase in the D4 category for exceptional drought, centered over McHenry and McClean counties and spreading out from there. Roughly 85 percent of the state is now in the ext lower category, extreme drought, up 2 percent from last week.

“In the Dakotas, where long-term moderate (D1) to exceptional (D4) drought is entrenched, the heavy rainfall, although beneficial, was only enough for minor reductions in D1 (moderate drought) to D3 (extreme drought) coverage in the western areas,” a summary on the Drought Monitor site reads. “Reports indicate much of this week’s heavy rains were immediately absorbed by severely dry soils, with no runoff into empty dugouts or ponds.”

A few areas, however, did get so much rain it resulted in runoff — and the erosion of topsoil.

High wind, meanwhile, is speeding evaporation of what rain did fall.

Williston growers from throughout the region reported getting 1 to 2 inches of rain last weekend — moisture that should be enough to get a good, even stand of crops growing.

May precipitation has been on track with what’s normal for the month so far. Historically May precipitation is 1.92 inches, and there’s been at least 1.47 inches recorded at Williston’s airport so far.

Year-to-date, however, is still 2 inches behind normal, with 2.69 inches to date. More usually, there’s around 4.47 inches, according to the records from the city’s old airport. The region also entered the year with a 7-inch deficit in moisture, making for a challenging spring for growers.

Topsoil moisture was rated 34 percent adequate to surplus in North Dakota and subsoil moisture 23 percent adequate to surplus in the latest USDA Crop Progress report. In Montana, 63 percent of topsoil was rated adequate to surplus, while 43 percent of subsoil moisture is the same. These were improvements over last week.

Fronts were predicted to move through the region over the weekend, but the rest of the week is forecast to be dry and warmer, into the 70s on Memorial Day and then approaching mid-80s. The next chance of rain is this weekend.

“There are no big rain makers in the near future unfortunately,” NWS meteorologist Alex Edwards said. “It’s not what we want to hear.”

At this point, it will take an extended period of rainfall to bring the region back to normal soil moisture conditions. Unfortunately, long-range forecast models predict drier and warmer than average conditions in a continued La Nina pattern.

Gov. Doug Burgum has declared a statewide disaster over the drought conditions, and the State Water Commission has activated its Drought Disaster Livestock Water Supply Project Assistance Program. The state’s drought hotline and interactive hay map are also available. Visit www.nd.gov/ndda for that and more drought resources.

Burning restrictions are in place throughout most of the state, and the risk of wildfires remains high.

Williams County Emergency Management Director Mike Smith has urged people to remain cautious after these rains, and not to have a false sense of security about burning.

“The sun comes back out and the humidity drops and the wind picks up and it just dries the vegetation out quickly,” he said.

That can then catch fire very quickly. Anyone burning anything on a day where the fire rating is low or moderate needs to take extra care to ensure the fire is totally extinguished, Smith said.

“The next day, it could be high or very high, and the winds be blowing, and the wind could turn up the ashes and create a wild land fire that way,” he said. “that’s what happens when we have this up and down fire rating.”By Renée Jean

Cooler weather and rain has not stopped the spread of extreme drought in North Dakota, according to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor update.

The map, which is released on Thursdays, shows a slight increase in the D4 category for exceptional drought, centered over McHenry and McClean counties and spreading out from there. Roughly 85 percent of the state is now in the ext lower category, extreme drought, up 2 percent from last week.

“In the Dakotas, where long-term moderate (D1) to exceptional (D4) drought is entrenched, the heavy rainfall, although beneficial, was only enough for minor reductions in D1 (moderate drought) to D3 (extreme drought) coverage in the western areas,” a summary on the Drought Monitor site reads. “Reports indicate much of this week’s heavy rains were immediately absorbed by severely dry soils, with no runoff into empty dugouts or ponds.”

A few areas, however, did get so much rain it resulted in runoff — and the erosion of topsoil.

High wind, meanwhile, is speeding evaporation of what rain did fall.

Williston growers from throughout the region reported getting 1 to 2 inches of rain last weekend — moisture that should be enough to get a good, even stand of crops growing.

May precipitation has been on track with what’s normal for the month so far. Historically May precipitation is 1.92 inches, and there’s been at least 1.47 inches recorded at Williston’s airport so far.

Year-to-date, however, is still 2 inches behind normal, with 2.69 inches to date. More usually, there’s around 4.47 inches, according to the records from the city’s old airport. The region also entered the year with a 7-inch deficit in moisture, making for a challenging spring for growers.

Topsoil moisture was rated 34 percent adequate to surplus in North Dakota and subsoil moisture 23 percent adequate to surplus in the latest USDA Crop Progress report. In Montana, 63 percent of topsoil was rated adequate to surplus, while 43 percent of subsoil moisture is the same. These were improvements over last week.

Fronts were predicted to move through the region over the weekend, but the rest of the week is forecast to be dry and warmer, into the 70s on Memorial Day and then approaching mid-80s. The next chance of rain is this weekend.

“There are no big rain makers in the near future unfortunately,” NWS meteorologist Alex Edwards said. “It’s not what we want to hear.”

At this point, it will take an extended period of rainfall to bring the region back to normal soil moisture conditions. Unfortunately, long-range forecast models predict drier and warmer than average conditions in a continued La Nina pattern.

Gov. Doug Burgum has declared a statewide disaster over the drought conditions, and the State Water Commission has activated its Drought Disaster Livestock Water Supply Project Assistance Program. The state’s drought hotline and interactive hay map are also available. Visit www.nd.gov/ndda for that and more drought resources.

Burning restrictions are in place throughout most of the state, and the risk of wildfires remains high.

Williams County Emergency Management Director Mike Smith has urged people to remain cautious after these rains, and not to have a false sense of security about burning.

“The sun comes back out and the humidity drops and the wind picks up and it just dries the vegetation out quickly,” he said.

That can then catch fire very quickly. Anyone burning anything on a day where the fire rating is low or moderate needs to take extra care to ensure the fire is totally extinguished, Smith said.

“The next day, it could be high or very high, and the winds be blowing, and the wind could turn up the ashes and create a wild land fire that way,” he said. “that’s what happens when we have this up and down fire rating.”

Load comments