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More signs indicate drought is easing its grip on region

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Monday, May 13, 2013, at 8:48 p.m.
  • Updated Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2013, at 2:53 p.m.

The drought’s over for much of Kansas – in the short-term, at least.

After a snowy end of winter and a rainy start to spring, the Palmer Drought Index lists the eastern two-thirds of Kansas in a near-normal state for precipitation.

“The short-term drought has eased quite a bit,” said Brad Ketcham, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Wichita. “We still have long-term drought. You have to remember – it took us two years to get into this situation and we’re not going to get out of it in six months.”

Through Sunday, Wichita had recorded 10.55 inches of rain in 2013. That’s 1.63 inches above normal.

AccuWeather Vice President Mike Smith said he considers the drought ended for Kansas east of the Flint Hills. The drought’s gradually ending from east to west in the U.S., he said.

He’s been telling farmers and agricultural groups all year that he is optimistic about this spring’s prospects for moisture. Time has proven him correct.

Wichita still needs more than 15 inches of precipitation to make up deficits that have accumulated since 2010, forecasters have said.

Yet forecasters are beginning to sound optimistic even about the long-term drought. As of last week, only small segments of the eastern half of the state were still in either extreme or exceptional drought as measured by the U.S. Drought Monitor, which takes more factors into account than the nearly 50-year-old Palmer Drought Index, which looks primarily at recent precipitation.

“That’s the best that map has looked in a long time,” Ketcham said of the U.S. Drought Monitor.

It figures to get even better, if projections by the Climate Prediction Center prove accurate.

All of Kansas is forecast to see the drought ease at least somewhat by the end of July – with the most improvement east of a line from Anthony to Newton to Manhattan.

Then again, the center’s projections earlier this year called for the drought to persist or intensify throughout all of Kansas, so hold off on betting your last nickel on that forecast.

“It’s going to take a little bit of time before we can get completely out of this drought … but there are promising signs,” Ketcham said.

More chances for rain are coming this week. Strong storms are possible Wednesday and Saturday, Ketcham said.

“There’s definitely positive signs,” he said.

Reach Stan Finger at 316-268-6437 or sfinger@wichitaeagle.com.

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