The Ottumwa Courier

April 1, 2013

Drought in retreat as spring begins

MATT MILNER
CNHI

OTTUMWA — Drought finally ended in parts of Iowa as March drew to a close.

The state has been in the grips of the worst drought in decades for most of the past 12 months. But a significant section of southeast Iowa saw the U.S. Drought Monitor declare it drought-free late last week.

The weekly report shows a line running from approximately the southwest corner of Davis County up to the Johnson County bootheel, then east to the Mississippi River. Everything south or east of that line is officially drought free. That includes about half of Davis County, most of Jefferson County and all of Van Buren County.

Most of the rest of southeast Iowa is considered abnormally dry, the lowest stage of drought reporting. Smaller sections of northern Mahaksa and Marion counties, as well as bits of western Monroe and Appanoose counties remain in moderate drought.

While the improvement is welcome news, there are no guarantees. The increased precipitation over the past four months has come while the ground was frozen, meaning little penetrated. The region still needs considerable rain to make up for very dry soil conditions.

There is hope on that front. The forecast from the National Weather Service says there is a greater than normal chance of a wet spring. But estimating for three months has considerably greater uncertainty than a weekly forecast.