The ins and outs of a drought

June 1, 2023
Droughts don't develop overnight but rather weeks, months and years
Published: Jun. 1, 2023 at 5:30 PM CDT
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HASTINGS, Neb. (KSNB) - As we saw from the current drought monitor, there has been much improvement in the southwest part of the state from recent rains. That is not the case for eastern parts of the state. So, when does a drought start and how does it end? A drought doesn’t happen overnight. It may take weeks, months and sometimes years. If you look at the progression of the drought monitor over the past year, it took months for things to get super dry across the state. The peak occurring this past December with half the state in an extreme to exceptional drought status. So, what does it take to get out of a drought? A good analogy might be the relation between medicine and an illness. A single dose of medicine can alleviate symptoms of illness, but it usually takes an extended program of medication to cure an illness. Likewise, a single rainstorm will not break the drought, but it might provide short term relief. Thunderstorms often produce large amounts of precipitation in a very short time, so most of the rain will run off into drainage ditches and streams rather than soak into the ground. This is what we saw with the flash flooding in southwest counties last month. Multiple soaking rains are the best medicine to alleviate drought. Such rains over several months might be required to break a drought and return conditions to within normal.