Drought Monitor Weekly: Winter Storms in the East, Little Precipitation West of Missouri River

    Wheat leaves poking up through the snow. Photo: Justin Ballew, Clemson Cooperative Extension


    A winter storm impacted areas from the northern Plains, to the Midwest, into the Southeast and then up the east coast during the period. For many areas, this was the first time that heavy snow occurred in these regions as many have brought up “snow drought” in areas of the country where snow has been minimal.

    From the Missouri River west, there was very little precipitation for the week.

    Temperatures were warmest over the northern Rocky Mountains and Plains where departures were 10-15 degrees above normal. Cooler temperatures dominated the East as departures were 5-10 degrees below normal.


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    Cooler than normal temperatures dominated the region with departures of 3-6 degrees below normal common throughout the Carolinas, Georgia, and into Alabama. As a winter storm tracked through the region, bringing with it ice, rain, and snow, some areas of Coastal Carolina, southern Georgia, the Florida panhandle and Virginia recorded over 400% of normal precipitation for the week.

    With dryness dominating the region as of late, the influx of moisture was welcomed and allowed for some widespread improvements to the drought status of the region. A full category improvement to the drought status took place over much of eastern Virginia, eastern North Carolina, eastern South Carolina and the panhandle of Florida.

    Moderate drought and abnormally dry conditions are all that remain after this week’s improvements.


    Most of the region was dry for the week with only portions of northern Arkansas, Tennessee, and Mississippi recording widespread precipitation, with some areas at 150% of normal or more. Temperatures were near normal to slightly above with departures of 2-4 degrees above normal over the panhandles of Texas and Oklahoma as well as eastern Arkansas. Coastal areas of Texas into the Delta were 2-4 degrees below normal.

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    Degradation continued as most areas have been dry since the fall and temperatures have remained well above normal during this period. In Oklahoma, a new area of exceptional drought was added in the panhandle with extreme drought areas expanded to the east. Severe drought expanded in southern Arkansas and into Louisiana and Mississippi.

    For Texas, severe and extreme drought expanded in the central and northern portions of the state while moderate and severe drought expanded in south Texas. There was an improvement to moderate drought and abnormally dry conditions in east Texas.


    Precipitation was mixed in the region this week with the western extent of the Midwest seeing the most while other areas remained dry. The greatest precipitation for the week was from southern Minnesota into Iowa, where over 200% of normal precipitation occurred with a winter storm. Outside of Michigan, most of the rest of the region was warmer than normal with temperatures up to 3-6 degrees above normal.

    Michigan had temperatures that were 3-6 degrees below normal. Even with the influx of moisture to some areas associated with the winter storm, it brought the first big snow event of the season and stopped a trend of dryness.

    Only a few changes to the overall drought status were made this week, with some expansion of abnormally dry conditions in northern Illinois and southwest Missouri while some improvement took place along the Missouri and Illinois border.

    High Plains

    Warmer than normal conditions dominated the region with areas of the Dakotas recording temperatures that were 10-15 degrees above normal for the week. The same winter storm that impacted portions of the Midwest also brought snow to much of North Dakota, eastern South Dakota and eastern Nebraska. Much of the rest of the area recorded below-normal precipitation for the week.

    With an ongoing “snow drought” in portions of the western Dakotas, degradation was shown this week in the Black Hills of South Dakota where moderate drought was expanded and in western North Dakota where severe drought was expanded.

    Some improvements were made to areas of extreme drought this week in southeast Wyoming, western Nebraska, and central Colorado. Many of the improvements were based on a reassessment of the region after the last few weeks brought several precipitation events to these areas.


    Temperatures were near normal for most of the region this week with areas of Wyoming and Montana having departures of 10-15 degrees above normal. With most of the region recording little to no precipitation for the week, most of the changes in the area were based on an assessment over the last several weeks. Improvements were made to the extreme and exceptional drought in western Montana and eastern Idaho as well as in northwest Wyoming.


    Temperatures for the week were cooler than normal with some areas in New England having departures of 8-10 degrees below normal. Most of the precipitation took place off the Great Lakes as snow and then a mix of rain and snow along the coastal regions. No changes to the drought status of the region occurred this week.

    Looking Ahead

    Over the next 5-7 days, it is anticipated that cooler than normal conditions will dominate the eastern half of the United States, with the greatest departures along the Canadian border in the Great Lakes region where departures of 12-15 degrees below normal are anticipated.

    Warmer than normal conditions over the West and northern Rocky Mountains with departures of 6-9 degrees above normal could be observed. Some precipitation is expected over the Pacific Northwest and into the Rocky Mountains. The wettest locations are expected to be in the South and Southeast and into the Mid-Atlantic where up to an inch or more of precipitation could be expected.

    The 6-10 day outlooks show the high probability of colder than normal temperatures over the eastern half of the country, especially from the Great Lakes to the Mid-Atlantic into New England. It is anticipated that below normal precipitation will impact much of the country centered on the Great Basin and the Midwest. There are above normal chances for above normal precipitation in much of Alaska, central Rocky Mountains and along the Gulf Coast.

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