Prolonged drought is loosening its grip on Nebraska.
Sustained rain and snow over the past month has eased drought across the state, and Nebraska is on pace to see one of its 10 wettest Octobers on record, said Al Dutcher, state climatologist.
Last week, two days of rain and snow gave some areas of the state a full October's worth of precipitation, he said. Nebraska averages 1.75 inches to 2.55 inches of precipitation in October. Some areas saw well above that amount.
The moisture is coming at a price, though. Northwest Nebraska ranchers sustained heavy cattle losses due to blizzard-like weather last week, and some fields are too wet — for now — to harvest.
Dutcher said here are the benefits:
• Dry soils are soaking up moisture.
• Stock ponds are filling up.
• Freshly planted winter wheat is getting a boost.
Most of Nebraska remains in drought or near drought, similar to a month ago. But what has changed is the severity of those conditions.
Here is a comparison of drought conditions in Nebraska this week to a month ago, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor:
• This week, 68 percent of the state is considered in drought, whereas Sept. 10, about 90 percent was.
• This week, 7 percent of Nebraska was in extreme drought or worse, compared with 26 percent a month ago.
Iowa has seen less dramatic improvements in the past month but hasn't suffered for as long or deeply as Nebraska. Slightly more than 90 percent of Iowa is at or near drought.
Both Nebraska and Iowa have seen the elimination of exceptional drought, the worst category. A notable area of improvement in Iowa was the elimination of exceptional drought that had settled into a pocket of west-central Iowa.
Source: National Drought Mitigation Center/University of Nebraska-Lincoln; School of Natural Resources, UNL