Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Frozen Ground Means Drought; Isnt over Yet

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Frozen Ground Means Drought; Isnt over Yet

Article excerpt

The blanket of snow covering much of the Great Plains after two big storms in less than a week may provide some relief for parched areas, but its no drought-buster, experts said Tuesday.

States such as Kansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma have been among the hardest hit by the drought that at one point covered two-thirds of the nation. Now, theyre buried under snow from two storms just days apart that dumped nearly 20 inches on Wichita, Kan., and more than a foot in parts of Oklahoma, Nebraska and other Plains states.

The snow may help ease the drought , but its unlikely to have a big impact because its largely on frozen ground, especially in the upper Plains. As snow on the surface melts, the water is likely to run off into rivers and streams instead of soaking into the ground.

Thats good news for those who depend on the many rivers and lakes that are near historic lows because of the drought. But it does little to help farmers who need the moisture to soak into the soil , said Brian Fuchs, of the National Drought Mitigation Center in Lincoln, Neb.

Its welcome relief, and maybe its going to start trending us in a positive way, Fuchs said of the snow. But its not the drought- buster that some would hope.

Even if all the snow melted straight into the ground, it wouldnt break the drought. A foot of snow equals roughly an inch of rain, and parts of the Plains are roughly 20 inches short of precipitation, even after the storms, Fuchs said.

The drought that settled over the middle of the country last spring hasnt let up in the Plains. Big portions of Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Texas are still in exceptional or extreme drought, the most severe classifications listed by the U.S. Drought Monitor.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture in its latest crop condition report offered a glimpse of what that has done to the winter wheat crop: In Kansas, 36 percent of wheat fields are listed as in poor or very poor condition. …

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