Dry February keeps most of state in drought conditions

DES MOINES — Hopes raised in January for a turnaround in the state drought situation went away as February turned dry.

Iowa Department of Natural Resources hydrologist Tim Hall says the latest Drought Monitor Report shows that. “There’s a significant chunk of the state of Iowa right, now about almost 20% of the state that’s rated by the drought monitor as extreme drought in northeast Iowa,” Hall says. He says that runs from Linn and Benton County north all the way up to the Minnesota border.

And 56% of the state is rated in severe drought. “In the wintertime when nothing’s growing and we don’t think about water use, it’s kind of easy to stop remembering where we are. But we still have more than half of the state rated in severe drought. And that’s a problem moving into the spring months and the growing season,” Hall says.

He says the January snow was good, but when it melted in February, it illustrated how dry things are. )”We had two feet of snow in the state over large parts of the state, and it all melted fairly quickly, and we saw zero instances of flooding,” Hall says. “And that just tells me that the soils are so incredibly dry.” Hall says the dry soil sucked up most of the snow melt and there was not a lot left to refill empty streams and rivers. “To have that amount of snow melt off and have no even localized flooding is a very surprising thing,” he says.

The snow came in January which was one inch above normal for precipitation. But Hall says all that surplus has gone away in what may end up being the driest February on record. “So the pattern of wet month, dry month, wet month, dry month, that doesn’t help us much. We need wet month, wet month, wet month, wet month,” Hall says.

He says we typically get a lot more rain in the spring months, and we’ll need that to work toward getting rid of the drought.