Wet June softens drought’s grip on Kansas

07/04/2014 6:53 AM

07/04/2014 7:08 AM

A wonderfully wet June didn’t just help keep temperatures down across Kansas.

It eased significantly the drought that grips much of the Sunflower State.

“A big hunk of western and northwest Kansas is really looking good right now,” said Larry Ruthi, meteorologist in charge of the Dodge City branch of the National Weather Service. “It’s lush and green out there. It’s the best I’ve seen in a long time.”

Data from the United States Drought Monitor shows a marked improvement over the past six weeks for the eastern two-thirds of Kansas. The drought map released Thursday shows that only the far western part of the state is in extreme drought.

Almost the entire state has seen the drought ease to some degree, according to the Drought Monitor, which considers crop and pasture damage, soil moisture, water supplies, river conditions and rainfall.

Much of the state saw double its monthly average of rain, Ruthi said. Wichita was right in line with that, recording 10.46 inches of rain. That was double the average for June and tied 1957 for third on the list of rainiest Junes in Wichita history. Only 1923 and 1928 were wetter.

Combined with more than an inch of rain that fell on July 1, the wet June allowed Wichita to erase a longstanding precipitation deficit for the year. Wichita is now at 17.65 inches so far in 2014, about a half-inch above normal.

Dodge City had the second-wettest June in its history. The 9.09 inches was topped only by the 11.17 inches that fell in 1899.

Last month’s rains were spread out enough to allow the soil to absorb the moisture, Ruthi said.

“A lot of it soaked in,” he said. “There’s not a whole lot of runoff.”

That’s great news for farmers, ranchers, landscapers and gardeners. While the rains came too late to rescue the wheat crop, Ruthi said, they will be a boon to fall crops.

The rains were well-scattered for Wichita as well. Measurable rain fell on 15 of June’s 30 days, records show, and the longest dry stretch of the month was only six days.

July often brings with it a dome of high pressure that shuts off the rain in the southern Great Plains, but forecasters say that doesn’t appear likely to happen this year.

“It’s not going to be one of these years where it locks in and bakes,” Ruthi said.

While temperatures will shift toward more seasonal norms, he said, weather patterns suggest fronts will bring chances for showers and thunderstorms on a consistent basis. Cool air from Canada will periodically slide down into the region to offer some relief, too.

Normal highs in July are in the low 90s in the Wichita area, though Tuesday’s high never made it out of the 70s.

“The next week or two looks a lot more seasonal” for temperatures, said Brad Ketcham, a meteorologist with the Wichita branch of the weather service. “But we’re off to a cool start” in July.

The temperature reached 102 on May 4, the earliest triple-digit day in Wichita history. But that didn’t turn out to be a taste of things to come. Wichita didn’t see a single 100-degree day in June and that 102 is the only century mark for the city so far this year.

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