By MATT MILNER
Courier staff writer
---- — OTTUMWA — This week saw the first rain in more than a month for Ottumwa, but it didn't do much more than whet people's appetites.
The official measurement: 0.05 inches. No, that's not a typo. Ottumwa received a grand total of five-hundredths of an inch of rain. If you took a glass of ice water outside during the recent heat wave, you probably had more condensation on the outside of it within five minutes.
Not surprisingly, conditions are getting worse for the drought. Nearly half the state is now in severe drought. The only part of the area to escape that category is Appanoose County, which is in moderate drought, along with a sliver of Monroe and Davis counties.
The percentage of Iowa in severe drought jumped by almost 10 percentage points to 41.79 percent. The severe area stretches in a band across the west-central and southeastern parts of the state. Most of the northern one-third of Iowa is in a lesser stage of drought.
It's not just Iowa in a bad situation that's getting worse. Only one state in the U.S. Drought Monitor's Midwest region, Kentucky, is free of drought conditions. All of the others have at least some areas considered abnormally dry. In fact, more than half the region is at least that far along in drought and close to one-third is in moderate drought.
If all this sounds familiar, it should. Drought has been a nearly constant factor in Iowa for two years. The drought monitor's records show that significant portions of Iowa entered unusually dry conditions in August 2011. That first wave peaked with about 20 percent of the state in severe drought between December 2011 and May 2012.
Conditions eased between May and July of 2012, but the drought never completely left. The summer of 2012 was among the worst in recent times, and it came on fast. The entire state was eventually in the severe drought category and approximately 60 percent of the state was in extreme drought conditions from late August to early November.
It finally took Iowa's wettest spring in history to break the drought, but the relief didn't last long. The summer of 2013 has been even drier than last year. And forecasters say there's no immediate sign of change.