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Drought grip loosens slightly

Jeff Caldwell 02/07/2013 @ 10:22am Multimedia Editor for Agriculture.com and Successful Farming magazine.

There's a little less color on the U.S. Drought Monitor map released Thursday morning than there was in the version of the map released a week ago.

Parts of northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin, as well as northern Indiana and southwestern Ohio that were under low levels of drought or dryness a week ago are off the drought spectrum in this week's edition of the map released Thursday. It's a sign that recent precipitation has taken at least a small bite out of at least the edge of the drought that's gripped the nation's midsection the last year or so.

"Drought conditions declined slightly this past week, with 56.84% of the contiguous U.S. experiencing drought. Drought still covers approximately 92% of the central and northern Plains and 56% of the southern Plains and Delta, but the Midwest has been reduced to 47.5% (down from 51%)," says MDA EarthSat Weather senior ag meteorologist Don Keeney. "The best improvements last week were noted across northern and western Illinois, southeastern Missouri, northeastern Arkansas and western Tennessee."

Look for this trend to continue in the next week, Keeney adds. "The current forecast shows some additional notable improvements across the Midwest, Delta, and Southeast this week, with some improvements possible across the southern Plains in the 6-10 day period," he says.

Those improvements look to come mostly as rain -- at least to start -- except in the fringes of the Corn Belt, says Harvey Freese, senior ag meteorologist at Freese-Notis Weather, Inc.

"While most of the precipitation should be rain across northern Illinois, heavy snow is forecast from southeast Wisconsin and western and central Michigan this afternoon and tonight," Freese said Thursday. "Heavy rains are also forecast across the deep south from New Orleans to Valdosta to Charleston, South Carolina. To the west, heavy snow potential is forecast to develop over northeastern Colorado and maybe even further north over central and eastern Wyoming on Saturday night with heavy snow potential continuing to develop further east over Nebraska toward western Minnesota."

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