OTTUMWA — Iowa's drought worsened in the past week in southeast Iowa, even as a tiny portion of the state recovered.
Drought was the last thing on most residents' minds early this year, when Iowa endured the wettest spring on record. The summer was among the driest ever, though, and in southeast Iowa it topped the 2012 summer.
More of the state moved into severe drought conditions, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, including much of Wapello County. The line between moderate and severe drought now bisects Monroe, Wapello and Jefferson counties. Counties to the north are now entirely in severe drought.
Even as the drought strengthened in southeastern Iowa, a patch near Dubuque improved enough to completely escape rating on the drought monitor's scale.
Much of the overall decline in Iowa is due to last week's scorching heat. The drought monitor's summary makes particular note of triple-digit temperatures “in the southern two-thirds of the Plains, southern Iowa and northern Missouri.”
August as a whole was a month to forget. The month ranked as the seventh driest in Iowa and followed the ninth driest July. But that doesn't tell the whole story. A number of weather recording stations across the state set records for dryness. Ottumwa received 0.96 inches of precipitation but no measurable rainfall after Aug. 7.
The impacts are accelerating, experts say. Crop conditions dropped in this week's report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The U.S. Geological Survey says Iowa stream flows are below average, with “some gauges in southern Iowa below the tenth percentile.”
Iowa has been consistently dry for well over a year. Except for a brief spell this spring, some form of drought has been assessed for the state since early summer of 2011.