Thursday, March 22, 2018

National Drought Mitigation Center

September 2014 Drought and Impact Summary

Drought eases in Southern Tier, emerges in Northeast

by Brian Fuchs, NDMC Climatologist

Drought: Drought improved and eased in many areas during September. September ended with 30.57 percent of the contiguous 48 states in drought, compared to 33.86 percent at the end of August. This is the lowest proportion of the country in drought since December 2013. The area in severe drought also improved, from 21.55 to 18.66 percent, and extreme drought improved from 10.08 to 9.41 percent, but exceptional drought areas grew slightly from 3.80 to 3.85 percent.  Although there was a net improvement during the month, small areas of drought developed in the more populated eastern regions, so the corresponding number of people in drought increased by almost 2.6 million people during September, with 76,404,294 people now in drought, including 29,518,276 in exceptional drought.

Temperatures: September had a mix of conditions over the country as fall began. Temperatures were generally above normal over most of the United States. Continuing with the trend of the last several months, the western United States was the warmest, with departures from normal temperatures of 4-6 degrees Fahrenheit. Another warm area was in the Southeast, where portions of Mississippi, Alabama, northern Georgia and eastern Tennessee were also 4-6 degrees above normal. Across much of the Midwest and central Plains, temperatures for September were cool, with departures of 2-4 degrees below normal for the month. Some areas of west Texas and southeast New Mexico as well as the Florida peninsula were a little cooler than normal, by 2 degrees or less.

Precipitation: Generally speaking, the cooler-than-normal temperatures in the Midwest and Plains, west Texas, New Mexico, and Florida were also areas where precipitation was above normal for September. Portions of southern New Mexico, southern Arizona, west Texas and northern Florida received 6-8 inches more than normal rainfall for the month. Areas of western Iowa and eastern Nebraska had 2-4 inches above normal for the month. The coastal regions of the Carolinas were also above normal by 2-4 inches. Much of the western United States observed a wetter-than-normal pattern in September, including portions of northern California, but not by enough to offset the long-term drought. Departures were up to 2 inches above normal for most locations west of the Continental Divide.

Outlook: Existing drought will persist through October, according to the U.S. Monthly Drought Outlook. Drought may expand in Idaho, Oregon and Washington. Portions of south Texas, southern Georgia, northern Florida, and New England are anticipating some improvement and removal of drought. The current drought is expected to persist in Hawaii, and Puerto Rico will see drought persist and even expand.

Movers & Shakers for September 2014

Percent area

Aug. 26, 2014
Percent area

Sept. 30, 2014
Status Percentage point change

Biggest increases in drought


26.99 moderate 16.81
Arkansas 2.36 9.13 moderate 6.77
Connecticut 0 38.12 moderate 38.12
Florida 2.88 6.61 moderate 3.73
Idaho 46.26 52.39 moderate 6.13

0 26.58 moderate 26.58
New York

0 4.27 moderate 4.27

48.51 58.13 severe 9.62


extreme 5.17

Rhode Island

0 99.02 moderate 99.02
Biggest improvements to drought


84.58 moderate



37.92 severe 18.68
Colorado 26.31 22.94 moderate 3.37
Georgia 20.14 15.9 moderate 4.75
8.07 4.76 severe 3.31
Kansas 87.92 46.13 moderate 41.79
5.58 2.37 extreme 3.21

10.30 0 moderate 10.30
Missouri 6.68 2.71 moderate 3.97

7.13 0 moderate 7.13

86.77 69.89 severe 16.88
55.21 48.38 extreme 6.83
New Mexico

70.28 62.57 moderate 7.71
40.20 30.04 severe 10.16

61.25 48.95 moderate 12.30

29.54 severe 8.67
16.23 11.26 extreme 4.97

81.56 59.30 moderate 22.26

12.98 severe 14.34

3.41 0 moderate 3.41

Regional Overviews


Temperatures were warmer than normal over almost the entire Northeast region in September by 1-2 degrees. The warmest conditions were generally in the southern reaches of the region and along the coast. It was a dry month as well with almost the entire region being below normal for precipitation. It was driest in eastern Pennsylvania, northern New Jersey, southeast New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island and southeast Massachusetts, where precipitation was 3-4.50 inches below normal for the month. Some coastal areas of Maryland and Virginia were on the wet side, with precipitation of 1.50-3 inches above normal for September. Drought was introduced into the region in September, with 3.56 percent of the area in moderate drought.


The dryness of the Northeast extended to the Southeast in September. Much of the region had below-normal rain for the month, except for the Florida peninsula, southern Georgia, South Carolina and the coastal regions of North Carolina, where departures were 2-4 inches above normal. Elsewhere, precipitation departures for the month were 2-4 inches below normal in portions of Alabama, southern Kentucky and western Tennessee. Most of the region experienced above-normal temperatures, with departures of 3-4 degrees over much of the region. The rain over Florida kept temperatures slightly below normal in parts of the state, but departures were generally less than 1 degree. Overall, drought expanded in September from 6.52 to 9.31 percent of the region. Severe drought improved slightly from 1.65 to 1.20 percent of the region, mainly from improvements in southern Georgia.


Many areas of the Midwest recorded above-normal precipitation for September, especially in Iowa and Illinois, and northern portions of Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio, where precipitation was 2-4 inches above normal for the month. Areas of Lower Michigan, Minnesota, southern Wisconsin, Ohio, central Missouri, southern Illinois, and western Kentucky were below normal for precipitation, with departures of 2-3 inches common. Temperatures remained cool for September with most of the region experiencing readings of 1-2 degrees below normal. Some areas of northern Minnesota were 1-2 degrees above normal. The proportion of the region in moderate drought decreased from 1.79 to 0.38 percent during the month. Following improvements in western Kentucky, the only drought in the region at the end of September was in southwest Missouri.

High Plains

Temperatures were mixed on the High Plains in September, with much of Nebraska, western South Dakota, western North Dakota and eastern Kansas recording temperatures 1-2 degrees below normal. The rest of the region was 1-2 degrees above normal, with the largest departures in North Dakota, western Kansas and the plains of Colorado and Wyoming. As with the temperatures, precipitation was mixed. Western Nebraska, western South Dakota, much of Kansas, southeast Nebraska and much of Colorado and Wyoming were wet, with departures up to 3-4 inches above normal for the month. Areas of eastern South Dakota, south central Kansas and southern North Dakota were 2-3 inches drier than normal. Drought improved over the High Plains in September, with only 12.14 percent of the region now in drought compared to 21.32 percent last month. Severe drought decreased from 6.46 to 5.98 percent of the region, and extreme drought improved from 1.45 to 0.86 percent.


Most of the South had above-normal temperatures for September, with the greatest departures from normal 1-3 degrees in Texas and Oklahoma. In contrast, areas of west Texas and central Oklahoma recorded temperatures for the month that were 1-2 degrees below normal. The cool temperatures in west Texas can be attributed to rainfall that was 6-8 inches above normal. Most of the above-normal precipitation readings were in west Texas, south Texas and portions of southeast Texas, where departures from normal were 1-3 inches. Overall, drought improved in the region, with 35.49 percent in drought currently compared to 40.81 percent last month. Severe drought improved from 25.76 to 22.66 percent, extreme drought improved from 10.29 to 8.47 percent, and exceptional drought increased in the area from 1.69 to 1.98 percent.


As has been the trend for most of this year, temperatures in the West were above normal in September by 2-4 degrees over much of the region. Only the northern Rocky Mountains and those areas of Arizona and New Mexico influenced by monsoonal rains had temperatures below normal in September. It was a fairly wet month in the West, with most areas seeing above-normal precipitation. This can be deceiving, as the normals for September are quite low. The greatest precipitation amounts were in central and southeast Arizona, southern New Mexico and western Wyoming, with departures from normal of 3-8 inches. With the rains in the Southwest, drought improved in the Western region, with 55.57 percent in drought now compared to 58.91 percent in August. Severe drought improved from 41.45 to 36.65 percent, extreme drought improved from 20.62 to 19.95 percent, and exceptional drought stayed the same at 8.90 percent of the region.

CA drought nudges food prices higher, tightens water supplies, adds to wildfire and stresses wildlife

The Drought Impact Reporter as of early October 2014 showed 136 impacts so far for the month of September, including 85 for California and 22 for Texas.

  The chart at right shows the proportion of impacts in each category. Government relief and water supply are the two categories of drought impacts currently most on people's minds.
  The chart at left shows the eight states with the most impacts, with Rhode Island the only eastern state on the list. Bars are colored according to impact categories.

The DIR as of early October had recorded 85 impacts for California, with the largest proportions related to government response and water supply.

This graphic from the California Department of Water Resources shows that all of the state's major reservoirs were well-below historic averages as of Oct. 6, 2014.

These charts, for the San Joaquin Precipitation Five-Station Index and the Northern Sierra Precipitation Eight-Station Index show the water year that ended Sept. 30, 2014, as the third-driest for those areas.

This perimeter map from InciWeb shows the location and extent of the King Fire. The U.S. Forest Service released this photo of the King Fire in the Stumpy Meadows area.

  Of the 22 impacts recorded for Texas for September 2014, government response and water supply and quality made up the largest areas of concern. Agriculture was also an issue.

  This map from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality shows 390 public water systems had imposed voluntary restrictions and 794, mandatory restrictions, as of Oct. 1, 2014.

by Denise Gutzmer, NDMC Drought Impact Specialist

The effects of California’s drought were felt beyond the state’s boundaries as the lack of irrigation water reduced agricultural production, which led to increases in food prices.  Wildfires charred the West Coast, with Oregon and Washington spending $446 million on firefighting expenses and California spending $209 million and tapping additional funds. As patches of dryness and drought emerged in the East, there were reports of aflatoxin affecting Alabama peanut crops, and water supply issues in the Northeast. The NDMC has so far added 136 impacts to the DIR for September, with 85 of those for California.

Economic effects related to agriculture

U.S. food prices

Food costs in the U.S. rose 2.7 percent over the last 12 months as the California drought cut into crop yields. In August, food costs inched up 0.2 percent, after a 0.4 percent increase in July.

“US Consumer Prices Fall 0.2 Percent in August,” by Martin Crutsinger, Associated Press, Sept. 17, 2014

Drought increasing lemon prices

The wholesale price of lemons peaked at $2.327 per pound in August, roughly twice the cost compared to one year ago, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Ninety-one percent of the nation’s lemons are produced in California, which is suffering a historic drought. The prices for other fresh fruits were also rising, with the U.S. Department of Agriculture expecting an uptick of 5 to 6 percent this year, in line with the rising cost of meats and eggs.

“Lemon Lovers Get Bitter Shock on California Drought: Commodities,” by Megan Durisin, The Washington Post (D.C.), Sept. 23, 2014

California crops

Production fell for other crops in California during the state’s third year of drought because there was less water for irrigation. Rice, grapes, oranges, hay, corn, pistachios and almonds were some of the crops seeing production shortfalls.  Oat, barley and wheat pastures were parched, driving hay prices to record highs. One equestrienne said hay prices increased from $9 a bale to more than $20.

“California's drought sends hay prices soaring,” by Martin Espinoza, The Press Democrat (Santa Rosa, Calif.), Sept. 2, 2014

Resulting unemployment, need for food aid

Farm employment dipped by 2,700 jobs or less than 1 percent, compared to one year ago, said California’s Employment Development Department, although it’s difficult to get an exact count since many workers are transient and work part-time. With fewer people receiving paychecks, the demand for food aid through local food banks has risen. The number of families getting food aid every two weeks at the Bethel Spanish Assembly of God in Farmersville in Tulare County shot up from about 40 last year to more than 200 this year.

“California harvest much smaller than normal across crops,” by Dale Kasler, The Sacramento Bee (Calif.), Sept. 28, 2014

California wildfires

California’s fire season has been very active this year as dry conditions lead to fires year-round, rather than mostly during the late summer. The number of wildfires fought by Cal Fire was 24 percent higher than the five-year average and the number of acres burned was slightly above the five-year average.

Fires Acres
Jan. 1, 2014-Sept. 27, 2014
5,059 90,735
Jan. 1, 2013-Sept. 27, 2013
4,320 115,217
5-year average (same interval)
4,066 87,092

Statistics include all wildfires responded to by CAL FIRE in both the State Responsibility Area, as well as the Local Responsibility Area under contract with the department, plus all large wildfires in State Responsibility Area protected by CAL FIRE’s contract counties.

In September, the two largest wildfires burning in the country were the Happy Camp Complex in Northern California and the King Fire near Lake Tahoe in California. Through Sept. 30, the lightning-sparked Happy Camp Complex in Northern California that began Aug. 14 had burned 132,733 acres and was 97 percent contained. It has cost $87.3 million to fight.

Expense of fighting wildfires exceeds California's wildfire budget

The expense of fighting California’s many wildfires has used the $209 million set aside for the task, prompting Gov. Brown to access another $70 million from a reserve account, containing $449 million designated for unexpected costs such as natural disasters, as fires continue to burn. State officials set aside more money than usual for firefighting, but the funds were spent less than three months after they were marked for firefighting.

“Wildfires prove costly for California budget,” by Chris Megerian, Los Angeles Times, Sept. 29, 2014

Costly wildfires burn up funds for other uses

Gov. Brown of California vetoed legislation that would have given $100 million to the University of California and California State University partly because the cost of firefighting has been excessive this year. The governor listed several other reasons for withholding the funds, citing lower-than-expected property tax revenue, California’s aging infrastructure and the state’s debts.

“Brown vetoes $100 million boost for UC, Cal State,” Associated Press, The Sacramento Bee (Calif.), Sept. 27, 2014

King Fire California’s second costliest in 2014

The King Fire charred more than 97,000 acres, a dozen homes and 68 structures after the blaze began on Sept. 13 in the Sierra Nevada foothills near Sacramento. The blaze was 92 percent contained in late September and cost more than $53 million to fight, making the King Fire the second costliest fire in California in 2014.

The exceeding dry conditions and shrinking water resources have led California firefighters to adapt their tactics.  Fire crews have used portable pumps and tanks to collect hard-to-access water.  Fire crews also set backfires to clear vegetation or use firefighting foam to smother fires.

Firefighters battling the King Fire in El Dorado County dropped more than 203,000 gallons of fire retardant on the blaze on a single day, setting a new daily record. Through Sept. 19, more than 500,000 gallons of fire retardant had been dropped on the fire because normal amounts of fire retardant were not stopping the fire.

California Gov. Brown declared states of emergency in El Dorado and Siskiyou counties, due to the King and Boles fires burning out of control.

“California’s massive King fire is almost fully contained. But it’s not dead yet,” by J. Freedom du Lac, The Washington Post, Sept. 29, 2014.

“Rain brings relief - and flood threat - to Calif. Fires,” by Trevor Hughes, USA Today, Sept. 25, 2014

“Water shortages not a problem for King fire crews,” by Matt Weiser, The Sacramento Bee (Calif.), Sept. 25, 2014

“Crews battling explosive Northern California wildfire drop record-setting amounts of retardant,” by Raquel Maria Dillion and Gillian Flaccus, Associated Press (New York), Sept. 20, 2014

“Firefighters dig in for the long haul against El Dorado’s King fire,” by Peter Hecht, The Sacramento Bee (Calif.), Sept. 18, 2014

Mudslide on Mt. Shasta in Northern California thought to be drought-related

An immense mudslide in Mud Creek Canyon on Mt. Shasta has been attributed to drought after debris and mud flowed down the mountain on Sept. 20 in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest. Experts think that glacial melting, hastened by drought, could have produced water which destabilized huge ice blocks and caused the debris flow.

“Mt. Shasta mudslide blamed on drought, melting glacier,” by Veronica Rocha, Los Angeles Times, Sept. 22, 2014

California Wildlife

More water releases to protect salmon in Northern California

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation increased water releases from the Lewiston Dam into the Trinity River on Sept. 16 as evidence of a parasite harmful to salmon resurfaced. Ichthyophthirius multifiliis, or Ich, can be problematic in stagnant water and harms fishes’ gills, causing them to suffocate. Nine of 20 fish tested for the parasite were found to be infected with Ich. This is the same parasite responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of salmon in 2002.

"More emergency water releases for Klamath salmon," by Jeff Bernard, Associated Press, Sept. 17, 2014

Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge Complex rescue to provide wetlands for migrating birds

BirdReturns, a new rescue program created by the Nature Conservancy of California, has made bird habitat available during drought by offering money to farmers to flood their rice fields early with well water and keep the fields inundated into April 2015. An aerial survey of six wildlife refuges in the Sacramento Valley complex performed in August found fewer than 10,000 ducks and 250 geese at the Sacramento and Delevan refuges, 24 ducks and no geese at Colusa, and no waterfowl at Sutter, Butte Sink and Llano Seco, which were dry.

"BirdReturns rescue program is just ducky," by Tom Stienstra, Sept. 6, 2014

Oregon, Washington wildfires

Oregon and Washington endured 3,270 wildfires that burned 1,284,013 acres of federal, state and private land from the start of 2014 through Sept. 22, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. The number of fires was lower than the 10-year average, but the spatial extent of the fires was nearly three times the 10-year average of 452,039 acres. The largest fire in Washington was the Carlton Complex at 256,108 acres and the largest in Oregon was the Buzzard Complex at 395,747 acres. Both states have been affected by drought since the start of the year. Total firefighting costs have risen to $446 million, in comparison with $235 million this time last year.

“Pacific Northwest wildfire season: Oregon and Washington topped nation in acres burned,” by Stuart Tomlinson, (Portland), Sept 24, 2014


Aflatoxin afflicting Alabama peanuts

The hot, dry conditions this summer made Alabama peanuts prone to aflatoxins, rendering them inedible. Aflatoxin-affected peanuts can still be crushed and used for oil. A research associate for Auburn University stated that about half of the peanuts had aflatoxin. Peanut yields were anticipated to range from 200 pounds to 3,000 pounds per acre.

“Alabama peanut farmers worry about lower yields,” by Greg Phillips, Montgomery Advertiser (Ala.), Sept. 26, 2014

Drought contributing to reduced chile production in New Mexico

Drought was one of several factors chipping away at New Mexico’s chile acreage and production over the years, even as demand for the pepper has been increasing. In 2013, about 8,600 acres of chile were harvested, a forty year low, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Chile growth peaked in the early 1990s at 34,000 acres. Labor costs, international competition and concerns over long-term water supplies have also reduced the planted acreage and production.

New Mexico's green chile harvest in full swing,” by Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press, Sept. 10, 2014

Need for rain delaying wheat planting in southwestern Oklahoma

Many wheat farmers in southwestern Oklahoma were waiting for rain before planting their winter wheat because the soil was too dry to offer much hope for germination, according to the executive director of the Oklahoma Wheat Commission.

“As farmers begin to plant winter wheat, drought intensifies across Oklahoma,” by Silas Allen, (Oklahoma City, Okla.), Sept. 25, 2014

Municipal water supplies

Numerous communities that have been suffering drought for years were depleting water sources and entering advanced stages of water restrictions.

  • Mineral Wells, Texas: Officials were assessing their options for accessing more water as Lake Palo Pinto could go dry as soon as May 2015.
  • Abilene, Texas: City’s two primary water sources were below 20 percent of capacity, while a third was at 35 percent, leaving the city looking to the Brazos River for more water.
  • Duncan, Oklahoma: Trihalomethanes (THM) in Duncan’s water supply exceeded EPA limits. THMs are a byproduct of chlorine treatment, which had to be intensified due to higher amounts of organic matter in the raw water. Officials attributed the increase in organic matter in part to ongoing drought.
  • Chickasaw National Recreation Area in southern Oklahoma: Lake of the Arbuckles fell to a new low of 864.51 feet above sea level, closing some swimming areas.
  • South central Idaho: Wood River Valley residents have discolored water streaming from their faucets and low water pressure as the area’s water table drops and wells run dry.
  • Manchester, Connecticut: The water and sewer department issued a water conservation alert because its reservoir was below 80 percent of capacity.
  • Providence, Rhode Island: The course and activities in Blackstone River Valley Greenway Challenge were altered to account for the Blackstone River being too low for kayaking.
  • Ipswich, Massachusetts: Outdoor watering and other outdoor water uses were banned because the rain deficit was considerable.

 “Drought reaches crisis levels for bone-dry Mineral Wells,” by Todd Unger, WFAA, KHOU-TV CBS 11 Houston (Texas), Sept. 12, 2014

“Drought pushes Abilene to find new water source,” by Associated Press, KTXS (Abilene, Texas), Sept. 12, 2014

“Duncan water exceeds contaminant standard,” by Steve Olafson, The Duncan Banner (Okla.), Sept. 17, 2014

“Record low water levels at Lake of the Arbuckles,” The Daily Ardmoreite (Ardmore, Okla.), Sept. 29, 2014

“Valley residents report drying wells,” by Greg Moore, Idaho Mountain Express (Ketchum, Idaho), Sept. 24, 2014

“Residents asked to conserve water use,” by Quoron Walker, Hartford Courant (Conn.), Sept. 24, 2014

“Rhode Island is running dry, but we’re not in a drought yet,” by Donita Naylor, Providence Journal (R.I.), Sept. 22, 2014

“Ipswich imposes outdoor water ban,” Ipswich Chronicle (Danvers, Mass.), Sept. 5, 2014

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