‘Exceptional’ drought creeps into northwest Iowa

By: - September 13, 2022 12:04 pm

Warm and dry conditions are expected to heighten the risk of fires during harvest. (Photo by Perry Beeman/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

A small sliver of Woodbury County recently regressed into “exceptional” drought status, the worst classification of dryness identified by the U.S. Drought Monitor.

That area along the state’s border with Nebraska also missed the heavier rainfall that soaked much of the state this past weekend, according to a state climatologist weather report.

It’s the first time that any part of Iowa has had exceptional drought since 2013, according to Drought Monitor data.

In Nebraska, where the arid conditions are far worse, exceptional drought developed at the beginning of August and now covers about 10% of the state. Iowa’s exceptional drought affects about .02% of the state.

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Crop conditions in Iowa slid again this past week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported on Monday. About 63% of the state’s corn and soybeans were rated good or excellent, down from 66% the week before.

“Harvest preparations are in full swing with early harvest activities beginning across portions of the state where drier conditions have been more prevalent,” Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig said Monday. “While there’s been a chilly start over the last few days, outlooks show unseasonably warm temperatures will return through the middle of September.”

Naig has warned that the anticipated warm and dry conditions will increase the threats of fire during harvest season. Heat generated by farmers’ tractors has the potential to ignite dried plant material.

Iowa’s statewide average rainfall last week slightly exceeded what is typically expected this time of year. Up to about 2 inches fell in southeast and western Iowa, including in places suffering from significant drought.

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Jared Strong
Jared Strong

Senior reporter Jared Strong has written about Iowans and the important issues that affect them for more than 15 years, previously for the Carroll Times Herald and the Des Moines Register. His investigative work exposing police misconduct has notched several state and national awards. He is a longtime trustee of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council, which fights for open records and open government. He is a lifelong Iowan and has lived mostly in rural western parts of the state.

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