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Drought Tightens Grip In Western U.S. As Wildfires Spread

Rich Pedroncelli / AP

Rich Pedroncelli / AP

The U.S. Drought Monitor released July 30 shows "moderate to exceptional drought maintained its hold on the West" despite above-normal precipitation in parts of California, Nevada and the Pacific Northwest last week.

It is the dry season for the western U.S. and "even minor amounts of rain equate to well above normal," according to the report. 

0730 West Drought

The rain did nothing to improve reservoir storage in California, which is in the fourth consecutive year of drought.  

"While the rains in southern California during the past couple weeks have caused local flooding and inhibited wildfire development, reservoirs saw no increase in storage."

0730 CA Resevoir

The U.S. Drought Monitor drought "intensity" ranges from 'Abnormally Dry' to 'Exceptional Drought' and the report showed 46 percent of California is in exceptional drought, 71 percent is in extreme and 95 percent is in severe drought. 

0730 CA Drought

In northern Nevada, extreme drought was reduced slightly (about 8 percent) over Humboldt County "due to above-normal precipitation at many time scales and improving range land conditions." As of July 28, 76 percent of Nevada is in severe drought and nearly 40 percent is in extreme drought. 

0730 NV Drought

Drought Expands In Pacific Northwest

As July ends, conditions in Washington, Oregon and Idaho continued to worsen in the past week.

Extreme drought increased 14 percent in Oregon and 100 percent of the state is now in severe drought. In Washington, 32 percent of the state is now in extreme drought and nearly 100 percent is in severe drought.

0730 Oregon Drought

"Low streams, parched soils, and the risk of wildfires helped extreme drought to tighten its grip on the Pacific Northwest," the report stated. "The lack of mountain snowpack has contributed to record and near-record low streamflows across much of the Pacific Northwest, with tinder-dry conditions resulting in the closing of the forests in northern Idaho."

Soil, pasture and range conditions continued to reflect the impact of the drought in the northwest over the past week.

A July 27 USDA NASS report showed, “topsoil and subsoil moisture continued to decline, with topsoil short or very short of moisture across 80 percent of Oregon, 65 percent of Washington, and 52 percent of Idaho, and subsoil short or very short of moisture across 80 percent of Oregon, 65 percent of Washington, and 46 percent of Idaho.”

"Pasture and range conditions were rated poor to very poor across 47 percent of Oregon, 41 percent of Washington, and 14 percent of Idaho, which were slight increases compared to the previous week. Crop harvesting continued, and while most crops were in fair to good condition across the region, 32 percent of the winter wheat crop in Oregon was rated in poor to very poor condition."

The U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook shows the drought persisting and intensifying through the end of October in California, Nevada, Oregon, Washington and Idaho.

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