Thursday, March 22, 2018

National Drought Mitigation Center

May 2014 Drought and Impact Summary

Drought persisted from Texas to California

This four-week change map shows most of the action in May in Texas and the central U.S.

At the end of April, the U.S. Drought Monitor showed 38.43 percent of the contiguous U.S. in moderate drought or worse, 26.76 percent in severe or worse, 12.76 in extreme or worse, and 3.88 in exceptional.

By the end of May, the U.S. Drought Monitor showed 37.93 percent of the lower 48 states in moderate drought or worse, 27.72 percent in severe, 13.64 in extreme, and 3.35 in exceptional.

The Monthly Drought Outlook from the Climate Prediction Center shows drought likely to persist from Texas through the Southwest and up the West Coast, with prospects for improvement in Nebraska and Kansas.

by Brian Fuchs, NDMC Climatologist

Drought: Drought in the United States improved slightly in May, with the total area in moderate drought or worse decreasing to 37.93 from 38.43 percent of the contiguous 48 states. But drought intensified, with the area in severe drought increasing to 27.72 from 26.76 percent and extreme drought increasing to 13.64 from 12.76 percent. Exceptional drought eased slightly to 3.35 from 3.88 percent.

Precipitation: Precipitation was widely variable in May. One of the wettest areas was from central Texas eastward along the Gulf Coast, with many locations receiving more than 150 percent of normal precipitation, and as much as 400 percent of normal in portions of west Florida and southern Louisiana. Conditions were generally dry along the West Coast and in the Southwest, which is expected for this time of year. Much of the Ohio River Valley, Midwest and central Plains were below normal for precipitation, with most areas recording 50-75 percent of normal for the month. Much of New England received above normal precipitation with amounts generally 100-150 percent of normal.

Temperatures: May temperatures were below normal in the northern Plains, central Rocky Mountains, upper Midwest, and from New Mexico east to Alabama. Departures were 4-6 degrees Fahrenheit below normal in Louisiana, southern Texas, and central New Mexico. Temperatures were 4-6 degrees above normal all along the West Coast and Mid-Atlantic.

Outlook: The monthly drought outlook shows that most of the drought areas of the West will persist through June, which is not surprising, given that this is the dry season. Areas of Nebraska and Kansas are likely to continue improving, possibly being drought-free by the end of June, especially in the eastern portions of the states. Drought will persist in the southern Plains and possibly expand into parts of southern Texas.

Regional Overviews

Northeast: The Northeast continues to be drought-free. Most areas were quite wet, with departures of 1.5-3.0 inches above normal fairly common throughout the region in May. Temperatures were above normal for most of the region in May, by as much as 3-4 degrees in the coastal areas of Maryland and Delaware. The coolest temperatures were in Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire, and they were normal to slightly below normal.

Southeast: Drought emerged in the far southern tip of Florida in May, although much of the Southeast was much wetter than normal. Some areas of the Gulf Coast and Florida recorded precipitation of 4-8 inches above normal. From Georgia northward into the Carolinas, some areas were quite wet as well, with departures of 2-4 inches above normal. Areas of Tennessee, northern Alabama and Mississippi and Kentucky were not as wet, and ended May 2-4 inches below normal. Except for those areas recording the greatest rainfall, most of the Southeast had above-normal temperatures in May. Areas of coastal North Carolina were 3-5 degrees above normal, and most of the region was 1-3 degrees above normal.

Movers & Shakers for May 2014
Percent area
April 29, 2014
Percent  area May 27, 2014
Status Percentage point change
Biggest increases in drought
61.20 76.28 severe 15.08
Colorado 8.38 12.49 extreme 4.11
Florida 0.00 3.98 moderate 3.98
Kansas 72.06 80.81 severe 8.75
48.31 extreme 23.63
0.00 3.09 exceptional 3.09
Louisiana 6.79 13.05 moderate 6.26
Missouri 11.36
15.35 moderate 3.99


54.81 73.26 severe 18.45
39.03 55.04 extreme 16.01
20.26 26.47 exceptional 6.21
South Dakota
0.00 9.84 moderate 9.84
 Biggest improvements to drought
Iowa 37.23 28.76 moderate 8.47
Nebraska 70.39 62.39 moderate 8.00
New Mexico
4.18 0.69 exceptional 3.49
Oregon 83.01 73.37 moderate 9.64
51.73 46.03 severe 5.70
Texas 52.91 49.16 severe 3.75
37.86 32.81 extreme 5.05
17.75 10.76 exceptional 6.99

Midwest: Drought improved slightly in portions of Iowa this month. Overall, moderate drought declined to 6.47 from 7.11 percent of the Midwest in May, and only a small pocket of severe drought existed in southwest Missouri. Most locations recorded precipitation of 2-3 inches below normal for the month. Some areas of Missouri and southeast Iowa recorded deficits of 4-5 inches. In the Upper Midwest, areas of northern Minnesota and northern Wisconsin had 1-3 inches above normal precipitation. Temperatures were 1-3 degrees above normal for most of the region. The upper Midwest was cooler than normal, by as much as 2-4 degrees in Minnesota, northern Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

High Plains: Drought conditions in the High Plains worsened overall during May. Areas of Kansas, Colorado, and South Dakota saw drought spread and intensify, although portions of Nebraska saw improvement. Overall, drought conditions worsened to 33.07 from 32.71 percent of the region. Severe drought increased to 21.60 from 20.10 percent, extreme drought increased to 11.43 from 6.37 percent and exceptional drought increased to 0.89 from 0.39 percent. Precipitation was heaviest in areas that had intense thunderstorms. Portions of western Nebraska and Colorado had precipitation that was 1-2 inches above normal in May, with the higher elevations of Colorado recording snow throughout much of the month. In contrast, areas of central Nebraska and Kansas were 3-4 inches below normal for the month. Temperatures were quite cool during May over most of the area, with departures of 0-2 degrees below normal common. Most of Kansas and western Wyoming were on the warm side of normal.

South: Drought in the South intensified during most of May and then improved at the end of the month. Overall, drought conditions improved slightly, with 48.10 percent of the region in drought now compared to 48.77 percent at the beginning of the month. Exceptional drought improved the most, currently 8.96 percent of the region, after peaking at 17.21 percent of the region the week of May 20. After most of May being fairly dry, the month ended with some significant rains over much of Texas and portions of Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana. Parts of East Texas ended the month with rain totals 6-8 inches above normal. Even though some areas of Oklahoma received some rain at the end of May, totals were still 2-4 inches below normal for the month. Most of the region was cool for the month, with areas along the Gulf Coast 2-4 degrees below normal. The Texas Panhandle and western Oklahoma were the warmest, 2-3 degrees above normal for the month.

West: As the West began its drier time of year, drought improved slightly when some areas in the mountains received some precipitation. May ended with 60.38 percent of the region in drought compared to 61.43 percent at the beginning of the month. The coastal areas of the Pacific Northwest recorded precipitation of 1-2 inches above normal, as did areas of eastern Montana. Central and eastern New Mexico also picked up rainfall of as much as 2 inches above normal for the month. Temperatures for May were 2-4 degrees warmer than normal all along the West Coast. Portions of Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico were 2-4 degrees cooler than normal.

May impacts included water restrictions, wildfire, and forecast agricultural losses

California and Texas, two large, populous states that are both in drought, had more impacts added to the Drought Impact Reporter than other states during May.

This analysis of impacts from the Drought Impact Reporter shows that Water Supply & Quality and government responses to drought, such as watering restrictions, each made up about a quarter of the total number of impacts for May.

This map of reservoir levels from Water Data for Texas showed as of early June that reservoirs in the eastern part of the state were generally in good shape, while those in central Texas and the Panhandle were still showing the effects of drought.

This map from the California Department of Water Resources shows reservoir levels as of early June substantially below full capacity and also below historic averages.

by Denise Gutzmer, NDMC Drought Impact Specialist

Lingering drought in the southern Great Plains and the Southwest eased ever so slightly in May, but years of drought in these regions has reduced surface and groundwater supplies, and some areas were contending with dust storms. While farmers in some Plains states anticipated reduced winter wheat crops, farmers in California left fields unplanted due to insufficient water for irrigation. Communities from Texas to California restricted water use. The landscape remained parched in much of the Southwest, setting the stage for an intense fire season, which began early with the outbreak of wildfires from New Mexico to California.

Water Supply

After a third dry winter, Californians were warned residents to cut water use because there was not enough snowfall in the Sierras to produce normal runoff and fill reservoirs, requiring stringent conservation and creative thinking to stretch water supplies for urban and agricultural use. Water suppliers in Texas, Utah, New Mexico and other states had also imposed restrictions.

California water may flow uphill in drought

Five water agencies in Kern County concocted an innovative plan to pump water north up the California Aqueduct to water parched crops, although gravity normally moves water north to south in the aqueduct. State officials were assessing the plan and will give their decision in June. If approved, the goal would be to move 30,000 acre-feet of water 33 miles from Bakersfield to Kettleman City to water thirsty grapevines, pistachios and pomegranate trees. Water agencies in the Bay Area were investigating a similar option.
“Water flows uphill? Maybe, in California drought,” by Garance Burke, Associated Press, San Francisco, Calif., May 6, 2014

Half of California wells at historic lows

The drought ravaging California has dropped well levels to historic lows in thousands of wells surveyed across the state, according to the California Department of Water Resources. Since 2008, about half of the 5,400 wells assessed have dropped to points lower than they have been in the previous century. The San Joaquin Valley was in the worst shape, with groundwater levels declining up to 100 feet below historical norms, while in the Sacramento Valley, the Sonoma Valley and the Los Angeles basin, levels fell up to 50 feet. Well owners in California are not required to report how much water they pump and are not regulated with respect to the amount they can pump.
“Report: Well water under strain across California,” by Matt Weiser, The Sacramento (Calif.) Bee, May 1, 2014

California Water Resources Board stops pumping by junior rights holders in the Sacramento Valley

The California Water Resources Board ordered 2,648 Sacramento Valley water agencies and other water users with junior water rights, issued after 1914, to stop withdrawing water from the American, Feather and Yuba rivers and numerous streams. Those affected are mainly farmers and large irrigation districts, but the city of Sacramento also must stop taking water from the Sacramento River because the city has junior water rights, although it has senior water rights for the American River. Similar water cuts were last ordered in 1977.

Members of the Colusa Drain Mutual Water Co. were warned to expect no water this year, leading growers to plant crops that could be watered using only alternate water sources, such as groundwater or other surface water supplies. As a result, just 4,000 acres of the 20,000 acres usually planted with rice and irrigated by the Colusa Drain Mutual Water Co. were planted this year. Drastic cuts in tomato and alfalfa planting also occurred in the district.
“California orders thousands of Sacramento Valley water users to stop pumping from streams,” by Matt Weiser, The Sacramento (Calif.) Bee, May 29, 2014

Drought boosted water quality at California beaches

Ninety-five percent of California beaches received grades of A or B for water quality during the summer of 2013 when there was little rain to wash pollutants to the sea. This represents a 2 percent improvement over 2012, according to the annual Beach Report Card by Heal the Bay, an environmental group.
Drought's upside? Better water quality at beaches, report says,” by Tony Barboza, L.A. Times, May 22, 2014

Texas agency helping local water suppliers

More than 30 small Texas water suppliers could be out of drinking water within 45 to 90 days, according to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, which assures the public that water will be brought in if faucets go dry. An estimated 11 water suppliers, providing water to about 8,600 businesses and residences, had less than 45 days’ worth of water. Twenty-one other suppliers had less than 90 days’ worth left. Voluntary water restrictions were in effect in 387 water systems, while mandatory water restrictions governed water use in 778 water systems.
“32 Texas water suppliers face water shortages,” by Betsy Blaney, Associated Press, Austin-American Statesman, May 21, 2014

Utah communities restrict water use

As Utah enters its third season of drought, several communities in Utah County have enacted water restrictions to prolong the water supply. Water use restrictions will take effect in Alpine on June 1 and took effect in American Fork. Voluntary water conservation was requested in Cedar Hills, Highland, Lindon, Orem, Provo, Santaquin, Saratoga Springs and Springville. Mandatory water restrictions were ongoing in Payson and Pleasant Grove.
“Caution: Lehi alerts its residents to water shortage,” by Kathy Allred, Daily Herald (Provo, Utah), May 18, 2014

Kansas Governor declares drought emergency

Gov. Brownback of Kansas declared half of the state to be in a drought emergency, which allows water to be drawn from certain lakes. Fifty-six counties are in the drought emergency, 26 are in warning status and 23 counties are in a watch status. The governor noted that some parts of Kansas have been in drought for nearly five years. Drought has depleted soil moisture and reservoirs and slowed stream flows.
“More than Half of Kansas in Drought Emergency,” Associated Press, May 21, 2014

Projected agricultural losses mount due to drought

Beef prices nationwide inch higher

A pound of beef sold for an average retail price of $5.72 in March, a record high, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Prolonged drought, little forage, low water supplies and high feed prices have reduced the national cattle herd to its smallest in 63 years.
“Beef prices spur thoughts of growth,” by Mary Shinn, The Durango (Colo.) Herald, May 13, 2014

Meatpacking plant in Dodge City, Kansas, shrinks workforce

Cargill Meat Solutions announced plans to cut the workforce at the Dodge City, Kansas packing plant as drought whittles away at the nation’s cattle herd, which was at its smallest in 63 years. The plant will reduce its workforce from roughly 2,700 employees to around 2,400 employees. Laid off employees in the bargaining unit will return to work as positions open through normal turnover. Until then, "Aligning production with the available supply for harvest will enable the plant to run more efficiently," said a Cargill spokesman.
“Dodge City Cargill plant to shrink workforce,” by Christopher Guinn, Dodge City Daily Globe (Kan.), May 14, 2014

California ag loss estimated at $1.7 billion, 14,500 jobs

The shortage of irrigation water in California is expected to lead to an estimated $1.7 billion loss to the state’s agricultural economy and leave roughly 14,500 farm workers looking for jobs, according to a preliminary study by the University of California, Davis, Center for Watershed Sciences. Computer models and recent water delivery amounts were used to project the estimated losses for the study commissioned by the California Department of Food and Agriculture. Central Valley farmers may fallow about 6 percent of their cropland or 410,000 acres because water deliveries will likely be two-thirds of normal this year. With less irrigation water from surface supplies, farmers were anticipated to pump more groundwater at an estimated cost of $450 million.
“California drought costs Central Valley $2 billion,” by Associated Press, The San Diego Union-Tribune, May 19, 2014

Central Great Plains wheat hurt by drought, spring freeze

Scouts with the Hard Red Winter Wheat Quality Tour found that Kansas’ wheat was behind schedule in early May and needing rain soon. The projected yield in Kansas is 33.2 bushels per acre, the lowest in 13 years. Production is expected to be 260.6 million bushels, the lowest estimate since 2011. If this production estimate is on the mark, it will be the smallest harvest since 1996 when 255.2 million bushels of wheat were harvested.

The average wheat yield in Colorado was projected to be 32.0 bushels per acre, according to Darrell Hanavan, executive director of the Colorado Wheat Administrative Committee. This yield would be considerably more than the 2013/14 crop.

The average wheat yield in Nebraska is expected to be 45.0 bushels per acre, beating the state’s 10-year average of 41.4 bushels per acre, said Royce Schaneman, executive director of the Nebraska Wheat Board.
“Annual Wheat Crop Tour Estimates Low Yields,” by Julia Debes, (Ames, Iowa), May 2, 2014

Drought, freeze and heat damaged the wheat crop in Oklahoma, leading the U.S. Department of Agriculture to estimate the harvest to be 62.7 million bushels, which would be 40 percent less than 2013. Oklahoma farmers planted 5.6 million acres of wheat, but are expected to harvest about 3.3 million acres at about 19 bushels per acre.
“Drought could make Oklahoma wheat harvest worst in decades,” by Kyle Arnold, Tulsa World (Okla.), May 13, 2014

Drought reduces forage

Drought in Utah reduced the amount of available forage, leading to competition between cattle and elk

Drought in Utah has reduced the amount of available forage, which has ranchers frustrated with the overpopulation of elk and other big game animals. The state Division of Wildlife Resources issued more hunting permits to cull some of the wildlife in drought-stricken parts of southwestern Utah. An estimated 81,000 elk inhabit the state, which is 1,000 more than the objective in the state elk management plan.
“As Western range suffers, should Utah cull wildlife?” by Brett Prettyman, Salt Lake Tribune (Utah),  May 19, 2014

Yuma County, Colorado, observer reports no grass for horses, wheat stressed, hard ground

No grass for the horses, no crops for the farmers ... . We worry about having enough well water for drinking, watering the mares and doing laundry. We are building fence, and it is dry two feet down. But it looks like a green oasis here compared to the area near Lamar. The sand has blown as high as the fences, and everything looks brown. Our wheat looks like a lawn -- theirs looks spotty and burned. I am thankful for the moisture we have received!
CoCoRaHS Report from Station #Wray 4.2 NNE on 5/7/2014


California is having an early, intense wildfire season, and large blazes charred parts of Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma and Alaska in May.

California faces prolonged fire season

California Gov. Jerry Brown cautioned residents to be very careful to avoid starting fires since prolonged drought has increased the fire danger statewide. As of early May, the state of California has spent $130 million of its emergency fund on firefighting expenses since July 2013, and Cal Fire anticipated needing another $82 million by the end of June. Drought did not allow for much of a lull in fire activity through the winter and kept firefighters very busy during May. Cal Fire statistics revealed a 65 to 70 percent increase in the number of fires and acres affected, compared to the five-year January-May average.
“Jerry Brown warns of dangerous wildfires in coming months,” by Chris Megerian, The Los Angeles Times, May 5, 2014 at

New Mexico: Signal Fire

The Signal Fire in the Gila National Forest north of Silver City, New Mexico, started May 11 and burned 5,484 acres before it was fully contained on May 23.
“Post Signal Fire Work Begins,” Inciweb, June 3, 2014.

Arizona battling several wildfires

A wind-driven wildfire burning in the Slide Rock State Park south of Flagstaff had blackened about 33.1 square miles through May 31. As of May 21, three hundred structures north of the state park were threatened, and roughly 3,200 residents were warned to be ready to evacuate. Steep terrain, thick pine forest, unpredictable strong winds and drought conditions made the fire difficult to fight. Several other large fires were also burning in Arizona. The Skunk Fire charred 33,548 acres east of Globe; the Badger Fire burned 500 acres north of Phoenix near mile marker 255 on Interstate 17; the Barlow Fire scorched 1,163 acres on the San Carlos Apache Reservation; and the Research Fire blackened 450 acres near Elgin. A few small fires were also burning around the state.
“Flagstaff-area fire menaces homes, ruins holiday plans,” Tucson Arizona Daily Star, May 21, 2014
“Arizona's Slide Fire now 90 percent contained,” by Associated Press, (Phoenix), May 31, 2014

Wildfires burning in Oklahoma, state of emergency and burn ban in effect

A wildfire burned about 3,250 acres in Guthrie, Oklahoma, and destroyed at least 30 buildings, including six homes, but the figure could rise as authorities assess the damage. One life was also lost after a man refused to evacuate his home. Gusty winds drove the fire across the drought-parched landscape. Several other wildfires burned across the hot, dry state, including one in Pawnee County, which scorched 1,500 acres and threatened 25 homes. Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin declared a state of emergency for the state and banned open burning in 36 counties, mostly in the western and south central portions of the state. She also asked the federal government to bring in a large air tanker from Arizona to fight the fire.
“Oklahoma residents survey wildfire damage; 1 dead,” NewsOK, May 5, 2014

Fire in Texas Panhandle consumed 156 structures

A fire in Hutchinson County, Texas, burned 156 structures, including at least 89 homes, said a spokesman for the Texas A&M Forest Service. Roughly 2,100 people were evacuated from their homes. The blaze was 65 percent contained on the evening of May 12. The region was in exceptional drought.
“Texas Panhandle Wildfire Destroys 156 Structures,” Associated Press, May 12, 2014

Funny River Fire in Alaska

The Funny River Fire had burned more than 193,000 acres in Alaska since May 19 when the fire began.
From InciWeb at and

Dust and air quality

Oklahoma dust storm reminiscent of the 1930s

Modern irrigation and farming techniques help keep the soil in place, but persistent drought in the Southern Plains has brought dryness more intense than the Dust Bowl and increased the number of days with dust storms. Oklahoma farmers were urged to forego plowing the soil this spring because blowing has been a problem. The National Weather Service has issued blowing dust warnings in recent days, due to the exceedingly dry conditions and strong winds.
“Update: Oklahoma farmers asked to avoid plowing fields,” by Associated Press, The Enid (Okla.) News and Eagle, April 29, 2014

Ongoing drought contributes to dust storms in Texas Panhandle

Amarillo and Lubbock experience more dust storms the longer the drought persists. Ten dust storms swept through Amarillo since the start of 2014. In comparison, the city had none in 2010, which was a wet year for the state. Lubbock has had 15 dust storms so far in 2014, according to the National Weather Service, but had only four such storms in 2010. Lubbock experienced a dust storm in April that lasted three days.
“Parts of some Plains states drier than Dust Bowl,” by Betsy Blaney, Associated Press, Lubbock (Texas) Avalanche-Journal, May 11, 2014

New Mexico dust storm causes fatal pileup

A dust storm in southwestern New Mexico caused a multi-vehicle crash on Interstate 10, taking six lives.
“Six Killed in Dust Storm Pileup on New Mexico Interstate,” by Associated Press, NBC News, May 23, 2014

Graham County, Arizona, observer reports air quality poor, asthma increasing, water restrictions

Very dry, red flag warnings frequently, air is foul due to high winds and dirt from cotton fields blowing around in addition to farmers planting during windy times. Asthma and other breathing related issues are way up. Many towns have limited water supplies and are rationing or restricted.
CoCoRaHS Report from Station #Pima 0.7 ESE on 5/6/2014

Drought in Placitas, New Mexico, leads to blowing dust, allergies, fire restrictions

Surface water flows are insufficient for irrigation in the three acequia districts of Placitas. Las Huertas creek goes underground just downstream of the Sandia Man Cave. The spring flush, mostly supported by the ground/soil moisture from last summer/fall, is over and the wildflowers are maturing and setting seed. Cheat grass and other cool season grasses are maturing and setting seed, while the warm season range grasses are small and barely greened up. Dry wind storms continue to evaporate and pull soil moisture up out of the ground. Blowing dust is becoming common in the valley and west mesa/lower elevations, and pollen and dust allergies are worsening. Dryness is also setting up stage one fire restrictions in some national forests. Large, native trees continue to die from drought stress, and cultivated landscape trees/shrubs are likewise stressed, needing extra water, weeding and mulch.
CoCoRaHS Report from Station #Placitas 3.8 ENE on 5/8/2014

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