Heavy rains that blanketed southern Minnesota and northwestern Iowa have some weather experts saying the drought could officially end this week in Minnesota. While an official update of the National Weather Service’s drought index won’t be completed until later this week, up to seven inches of rain have fallen across the area over the past seven days.
"Subsoil moisture levels are probably now normal," says Paul Kassel, extension field agronomist with Iowa State University, Spencer. "While it is still really dry three to five feet down, soil reserves are less of a concern today."
What’s even better, Kassel says is that the overall weather pattern has changed. On May 3, the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration officially announced the end to La Nina, which had been credited with causing the region’s drought.
"In June, northwestern Iowa typically receives 4.5 inches of rain," Kassel says. "And the odds of us getting that now are pretty good."
Over the past week, southwestern Minnesota received between two and five inches of rain, with totals ranging between 2.04 in Luverne and 4.63 inches in Pipestone, according to Mike Gillispie, hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Sioux Falls, S.D. Northwestern Iowa totals were lower, Gillispie says.
"For most of southwestern Minnesota, we’ll see at least a category improvement in the drought," says Gillispie. The National Weather Service has a five-category ranking system for drought, with D0 indicating abnormally dry conditions and D4 severe drought.
Southwestern Minnesota and northwestern Iowa are currently ranked as D2, severe drought, and have been for months. "Southwestern Minnesota will likely move to a D1, moderate drought, or even a D0," Gillispie says. "Northwestern Iowa will also see improvement."
Despite the heavy downpours that nearly blanketed the region over the past week, flooding has been primarily contained to low-lying fields and land adjacent to rivers, streams, and creeks, which are receding quickly. "There’s been some ponding in fields north of I-90 in southern Minnesota and in a line from Madison, S.D., to Pipestone, Minn., where between three and six inches of rain fell Saturday night alone. Madison received seven inches of rain over the past three days," he adds.
Since planting is so early this year, Kassel says producers will have time if they need to replant. Also, it’s way too early to worry about the area receiving too much rain, and both Kassel and Gillispie note that his week’s forecast looks like it will provide exactly what the region needs to dry out any soggy fields—less rain and warmer temperatures.
"We are definitely headed in the right direction," says Gillispie. "And, happily, things won’t stay too wet."
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