Extreme weather dominates Central Plains

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Two distinctly different weather patterns are playing out this spring in the Central Plains states, with flooding to the far north and drought and wild fires in the south. Both conditions provide significant concerns for the coming growing season.

The Red River near Fargo, N.D., is currently at 38.27 feet. That level compares with the 40.81 feet record set in late March of 2009. Flood stage is called 18 feet.

In Texas, the concern is drought and the destructive wild fires that often follow. A weekend wild fire in West Texas has been called the state’s worst in history, scorching about 110 square miles of rolling prairie. In the town of Fort Davis, 40 homes were destroyed by the fire. Another fire in Midland County burned 25 square miles over the weekend.  On Sunday, FEMA declared a State of Emergency for the Fort Davis area, calling it a “National Priority.”

But drought is not limited to West Texas. The latest report from the U.S. Drought Monitor released on Thursday shows 98 percent of Texas now in a drought, and more than 86 percent in a severe drought or worse.

The National Weather Service say that Del Riuo, Tex., has reported only 0.31 inches of precipitation for the October-March period, the second driest since 1906. Austin reported its 5th driest October-March since 1856 and San Antonio recorded the 12th driest October-March since 1871.

Oklahoma is not faring much better, with 86 percent of the state showing short or very short topsoil moisture conditions. Oklahoma has reported 500 wild fires, and wheat conditions are called poor. Most of the state remains in a severe drought.

Other states experiencing drought include New Mexico, Louisiana, and southern Arkansas. The National Weather report projects a dry pattern to develop through the South over the growing season.

With drought on one end of the map and flooding on the other, somewhere in between should be “normal.” That spot may be at the Kansas City International Airport, which has recorded 6.23 inches of moisture so far this year, which compares with an average of 5.84 inches by this date.

View the U.S. Drought Monitor here.



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