WASHINGTON (The Washington Post) – The most recent update to the U.S. Drought Monitor revealed a startling figure: Nearly 82 percent of the country is facing at least abnormally dry conditions — the highest percentage since the drought monitor launched in 2000.
Severe to exceptional drought conditions remain common in the West, which has been battling its driest period in the past 1,200 years. But the drought is now far more widespread, with unusual dryness continuing in parts of the northeast and expanding extreme drought conditions in the Midwest.
Here is a look at drought conditions in some parts of the United States, from low-end droughts all the way to rare “exceptional” drought conditions.
U.S. Drought Monitor as the states of Montana, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, Nevada and California — is again seeing widespread drought conditions, though there have been slight improvements since a year ago, when all but 2.57 percent of the region was under unusual dry conditions. Today, that figure sits at 5.23 percent.
California is ground zero of the drought in the West. The entire state is experiencing at least moderate drought conditions. Almost the entire state might be facing severe drought conditions if not for the much-needed rain brought to parts of far-Southern California by Hurricane Kay in the first half of September.
A little over 40 percent of the state is seeing extreme drought conditions — stretching from the Los Angeles area to the Central Valley all the way up into the Shasta Cascades and Southern Oregon. The last three water years — which run from October 1 to September 30 — have been the driest in California’s history.
Several other Western states — Arizona, Nevada, Washington, Idaho, and Utah — are entirely in drought. In Utah, more than 51 percent of the state is seeing extreme drought conditions, dropping water levels in the Great Salt Lake to record lows for the second year in a row, according to local reporting.
Drought relief in the West is not likely any time soon, though some rainfall is expected in parts of Southern California, Arizona and New Mexico over the weekend. In general, though, the U.S. Monthly Drought Outlook, released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, expects drought conditions to persist unabated.
Less than 10 percent of the High Plains — defined as Colorado, Wyoming, North and South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas — is drought-free, with the worst of the drought impacting the latter two states.
In Nebraska, no part of the state is drought-free and over 98 percent of the state is seeing at least moderate drought conditions. Over the past three months, the percentage of the state under severe drought has nearly doubled, while areas of exceptional drought — the worst level on the drought monitor’s scale — have expanded to 11.49 percent.
Firefighters and farmers in Nebraska have been battling wildfires, including the Bovee Fire, which has burned more than 18,900 acres — torching a campground and killing at least one person.