By Dan Shapley
Droughts Elsewhere In The Country Worsen, However
The record drought plaguing the Southeast remained intense in a core area of across large parts of Tennessee, northern Alabama, and western Georgia, according to the latest weekly U.S. Drought Monitor
report, released this morning at 8:30 a.m. But rains across other parts of the Southeast helped the overall dry area shrink, and cropland moisture is improving. Even in the worst areas of drought, soil moisture rated poor or very poor improved slightly -- from 86% to 68% in Alabama, 68% to 52% in Georgia, 72% to 66% in Tennessee and 62% to 55% in Kentucky. The percentage of farmers struggling with dry soil still remains significant, obviously, but conditions are improving. Elsewhere in the country, droughts persisted or grew worse this week. In the Northeast, a continuous area of drought now is spread from eastern North Carolina to Lake Erie in New York. Virginia's farmers are suffering, as 67% of pastures have poor soil moisture. In the Midwest and high plains, dry conditions expanded in many places. In the upper Midwest and 20-30 percent of corn and soybean crops were rated poor or very poor in Indiana, Michigan and Ohio. Record heat sucked the moisture out of Montana's high plains as an all-time high of 107 degrees was recorded -- four degrees above the old record -- harming the barley and wheat crops. Intense heat in the West also exacerbated drought, with several new temperature records set in the past week, coinciding with lightning-induced wildfires. At least 40% of pasture land is poor or very poor in five states -- including California, where just 4% of pasture is rated anything but poor. Water supplies are also at or near historic lows, with the Colorado River system at just 65% of normal and Lake Mead in Nevada at its lowest point since 1965.