It rained in Pratt Wednesday. That was the first precipitation Pratt has received for the entire month of March and it was just 0.22 inches.
The Pratt area had been holding steady in the “abnormally dry” drought range since beneficial rains back in August 2013 but now that things are drying up again, Pratt has slipped a notch to “moderate drought” according to the latest Drought Monitor report Thursday morning, said State Climatologist Mary Knapp.
Most of western Kansas remains in the severe and extreme drought range with not much change in the weather pattern for that part of the state.
Some hope lies in the future. Conditions are pointing towards an El Nino and that usually means a wetter and cooler summer and fall for this area.
However, it will be mid summer at the earliest before an El Nino could impact this part of the country.
Now that spring is here, Kansas is entering the wettest portion of the year but if March is any indication, it could be a long, dry spring. From March 1 to March 27, Pratt is 76 percent below the average precipitation. State wide it’s even worse.
The state average from March 1 to March 27 was just 0.4 inches of precipitation and that is 81 percent below the average for the same time period. For year to date its 64 percent below normal, Knapp said.
Even the wettest parts of the state are way below the average precipitation.
The average March precipitation for the entire month is 2.43 inches but with just two more days to go and no good chance for precipitation in the forecast, it looks like March will be a very dry month to start spring.
Temperatures have also been running lower then normal for March and that has delayed crops, grass and trees from greening up. That also means they have not used much of the leftover moisture.
The only thing that has kept the area going is all the moisture the area received at the end of July and early August 2013. But conditions will fade rapidly when the weather warms up and roots can’t reach down to the moisture.
The dry weather has created a fire danger, especially in southwest Kansas. Increased fire danger is in place from March 30 though April 1 so extreme caution is urged for controlled burns. A recent fire in Lyons County resulted in one injury.
All the moisture the area got last year resulted in a lot of growth that died out in the winter and is now good fuel for a fire, Knapp said.
Anyone wanting to burn anywhere in the state needs to report any planned burns to local law enforcement and to the local fire district as well.
A check of the weather on the day of a burn is vital for a safe burn. But even more important is to check the weather forecast for the next few days after a burn. Many times, someone has conducted a burn on a good day only to have the wind come up a couple of days later and blow life back into the fire where it can spread to various fuels including CRP grass.
Because it has been dry and cold the wheat has remained in dormancy. But climbing temperatures has wheat breaking out and using up leftover moisture so the area needs more rain.