According to the National Drought Monitor, 47.91% of the contiguous U.S. is free of drought, which compares to 46.53% last week and 36.33% a year-ago. Slight drought expansion was reported across the Midwest, Nebraska and Oklahoma.
For the South, the monitor shows 66.25% of the area covered by some form of drought, which compares to 67.57% last week, but reports drought expanded in Oklahoma. "Moderate to heavy rains of 1 to 3 inches fell on much of southern and southeastern Texas last week, but most of the region was drier than normal again. Precipitation totals topped a half inch across roughly the southeastern one-third of Texas and parts of Louisiana; Only isolated totals above 0.25 inch were reported elsewhere... Dryness and drought improved in portions of south and southeast Texas, but numerous areas elsewhere deteriorated. For the past six months, precipitation amounts ranged from 4 to locally almost a foot below normal in the Red River Valley, Oklahoma outside the Panhandle, Louisiana and northwestern Arkansas. Since the start of the water year (October 2013), a mere 15% to 35% percent of normal precipitation has fallen on much of the Texas Panhandle and northeast New Mexico," states the monitor.
For the Midwest, the monitor shows 34.69% of the region covered by some form of drought, up from 33.93% last week. Marginal drought expansion was noted in Iowa and Minnesota, with drought expanding by 1.64 percentage points in Illinois to 38.46% and by 3.78 percentage points in Missouri to 65.34%. "Between 0.5 and 1.0 inch of precipitation fell on a swath from southwest Minnesota eastward into southern Wisconsin while other areas received only a few tenths of an inch, if any. For areas north of southern Iowa, the drought assessment has been static awaiting spring snowmelt progress. From southern Iowa into north Missouri and west Illinois, dryness did prompt some regions of D0 and D1 expansion," it notes.
In its outlook for March 12 through 16, the monitor says moderate precipitation (0.5 to 2.0 inches) is expected from the lower Mississippi Valley eastward across the Southeast. "New England, far northwestern Washington, deep south Texas are expected to measure 0.5 to 1.0 inch. Light amounts of up to 0.5 inch at best are expected elsewhere," it says. For March 17 through 21, the monitor says the odds favor above-normal precipitation along the immediate East Coast and in part of the Alaskan Panhandle. "In contrast, there are enhanced chances for drier-than-normal conditions in a broad area covering much of the central and western states. Specifically, along a stripe from the Ohio and middle Mississippi Valleys westward through the central Rockies, California, and Oregon…and from there southward to the Mexican border and Gulf of Mexico coast. Neither wet nor dry conditions are particularly favored anywhere else," it states.