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PrattTribune - Pratt, KS
  • Drought conditions ease in some parts of state

  • Pratt improving from extreme to severe.
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  • With all the recent moisture in the area it might seem that the drought is over or the situation is at least improving.
    "Is the drought over?" is the question. The response is, "It depends on where you are and what kind of system are you talking about," said Mary Knapp, Extension state climatologist.
    In Pratt, the drought level has moved in a positive direction so that Pratt is on the border of extreme and headed downward to severe. The drought levels will be upgraded this week and Pratt will move into the severe level.
    However, drought conditions are persistent across the state and the severity of the drought depends on the location. The western part of the state has not been as lucky as their neighbors to the east where they are showing improvement in subsoil moisture.
    In western Kansas the drought level still sits at exceptional, the worst level in the drought scale.
    "Why are you even asking that question? We haven't seen anything of it," people in the west are asking, Knapp said.
    The statewide outlook for May moisture is a 50 percent chance for above and a 50 percent chance for below normal precipitation.
    While that doesn't sound that encouraging, people need to remember that the moisture outlook for May in 2012 was strongly tilted toward hot and dry.
    "We'll definitely take 50-50 against hot and dry," Knapp said.
    Rain and possibly a bit of snow is on tap for the next two days with a range from three-quarters to an inch of moisture with a chance for more on Friday. But moisture now doesn't guarantee moisture later.
    People need to remember a year ago the area was wetter than it is now but then moisture failed in May and June, Knapp said.
    But for now, residents in the eastern part of the state from Manhattan to Emporia to Topeka have received considerable rainfall. Residents west of that have not fared so well.
    Even within Pratt County rainfall totals have not been even. April totals so far range from 1.45 inches in the north, 1.53 inches in the southeast, 1.85 inches at Coats, 2.86 inches in Preston and 2.08 inches near Preston.
    "There's quite a bit of variability," Knapp said.
    For Pratt, the average normal precipitation for April from1981 to 2010 is 2.58 inches. With more rain in the forecast for this week, Pratt could end up with a normal or above April rainfall total.
    Runoff in the eastern part of the state has been beneficial but western Kansas only got a little of the precipitation. The southwest still has less than 10 percent of normal for April, Knapp said.
    Page 2 of 2 - The National Weather Service in Dodge City doesn't expect much change in the drought. The state would have to experience above normal moisture for a long period of time to make up for the years of drought, said Jeff Johnson, weather service meteorologist.
    "We don't expect conditions to improve too much over the summer," he said.
    This is especially true for southwest Kansas where dry lines coming through the Elkhart and Liberal area without bringing moisture.
    A better chance is further east where moisture from the gulf makes it to the Pratt area and to the east.
    Right now, more important news for farmers is the below normal temperatures. With just a week left in the month, most of the state it going to record an April that is in the bottom five coldest Aprils ever recorded and five areas will probably have the coldest April every recorded, Knapp said.
    This cold weather has delayed planting of spring crops of corn, soybeans and milo. Usually, by mid April most of the corn is planted and up but the soil temperature hasn't been warm enough to get the corn growing. Soybeans and milo are even more sensitive to soil temperature.

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