Weather

Wet spring leaves Kansas in a rare state: drought-free

There is no drought anywhere in Kansas this week, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. That hasn’t happened since last fall and has only happened five times since 2000, records show.
There is no drought anywhere in Kansas this week, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. That hasn’t happened since last fall and has only happened five times since 2000, records show. U.S. Drought Monitor

For only the fifth time since 2000, Kansas is entirely drought-free.

Last weekend’s blizzard, which brought more than two feet of snow to isolated areas of far western Kansas and double-digit accumulation to a narrow band that stretched north to south in the western third of the state, erased the final remnants of a drought that has been gradually receding during a remarkably wet spring.

“Off the cuff, I would say that’s pretty uncommon,” National Weather Service meteorologist Kevin Darmofal said.

Kansas was drought-free for three weeks last September, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, records show. But by the end of the year, nearly 83 percent of the state was enduring at least some degree of drought or abnormal dryness.

“Usually, parts of especially western Kansas are inherently dry anyway,” Darmofal said.

That lends to frequent droughts of at least some degree, he said. Dry conditions and strong winds set the stage for the largest single wildfire in state history in southwest Kansas in March, but steady rains and last weekend’s record-setting snow erased the nearly 15 percent of severe drought that gripped much of southwest Kansas at the beginning of the year.

Wichita has avoided drought this year, thanks to a rainy December and then the third-wettest April in the city’s history.

Kansas and Wichita have plenty of company in avoiding dry conditions. Philip Klotzbach, a meteorologist at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, tweeted on Friday that only 5 percent of the U.S. is currently in drought — the lowest percentage since weekly drought monitoring data began in 2000.

Perhaps more significantly for farmers and ranchers, the U.S. Drought Monitor is projecting Kansas to remain drought-free through at least the end of July.

Stan Finger: 316-268-6437, @StanFinger

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