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Monsoon helps ease drought in Southwest states

DENVER — A generous monsoon has helped ease drought conditions in Colorado
and the Southwest, but parts of the hard-hit southern Plains still have a long
way to go.

Between 2 and 6 inches of rain fell in storms last week across the plains of
Colorado, Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas, which have been stuck in a drought for
nearly four years, said the U.S. Drought Monitor released Thursday. However, the
region will need extended rain and snowfall to make up for the 20 to 30 inches
of moisture lost during that time, said U.S. Department of Agriculture
meteorologist Brad Rippey, the report’s author.

“It will take several seasons of significant rain to break the backbone of
this drought,” he said.

Meanwhile, rangeland and pasture in New Mexico and Arizona and are still fairly
dry, but conditions have improved. They were rated 56 percent poor to very poor
in New Mexico, and 50 percent very poor to poor in Arizona, down from 65 percent
and 56 percent, respectively.

However, recent rains have skipped much of the Navajo Reservation and the Hopi
Indian Reservation in northeastern Arizona and Utah.

While all of Colorado was in some stage of drought a year ago, now just 40
percent is. The driest area remains the southeastern corner, near the state’s
border with Kansas and Oklahoma.

Spring rains and summer monsoon storms have greened up the grass on the prairie
there and raised the spirits of farmers, who have been spraying herbicides on
fields in hopes of expanding this fall’s planting of winter wheat, said Wilma
Trujillo, an agronomist for the Colorado State University extension service
based in Lamar, Colorado.

However, despite the greening, the soil remains very dry below the surface,
which could make it hard for crops to thrive unless the rain continues to fall.

“There’s not too many crops struggling. It’s nice to drive around this year,”
she said.


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