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Harvest Public Media is a reporting collaboration focused on issues of food, fuel and field. Based at KCUR in Kansas City, Harvest covers these agriculture-related topics through an expanding network of reporters and partner stations throughout the Midwest.Most Harvest Public Media stories begin with radio- regular reports are aired on member stations in the Midwest. But Harvest also explores issues through online analyses, television documentaries and features, podcasts, photography, video, blogs and social networking. They are committed to the highest journalistic standards. Click here to read their ethics standards.Harvest Public Media was launched in 2010 with the support of a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Today, the collaboration is supported by CPB, the partner stations, and contributions from underwriters and individuals.Tri States Public Radio is an associate partner of Harvest Public Media. You can play an important role in helping Harvest Public Media and Tri States Public Radio improve our coverage of food, field and fuel issues by joining the Harvest Network. Learn more here.

Even with Recent Rains, Parts of the Midwest And High Plains Remain Parched by Drought

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UNITED STATES DROUGHT MONITOR, UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA-LINCOLN
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Parts of the Midwest and the High Plains are still in drought, with north-central North Dakota and western Colorado seeing the worst of it. Scientists say the May rains weren't enough to bail out the regions.

Even with recent rains across the region, scientists say expanses across the Midwest and High Plains remain in a long-haul drought.

The U.S. Drought Monitor says conditions in parts of the Midwest range from abnormally dry to severe drought. The High Plains fare worse, with pockets of exceptional drought. 

Recent rains can’t make up for soils that have been parched so thoroughly and for so long, said Adam Hartman, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center and one of the authors of the May 27 drought monitor map.

“When you have heavy rainfall in a very short period of time, it doesn’t allow the soils enough time to absorb that moisture,” Hartman said. “Instead, you actually get more runoff than absorption.” 

Large parts of north-central North Dakota and western Colorado are experiencing the worst drought conditions — categorized as exceptional drought. Meanwhile, pockets of northwest Iowa, northeast Illinois and western Michigan are in severe drought.

Even with the May rains, there just isn’t enough moisture in the soil for plants to thrive, said Dennis Todey, the director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Midwest Climate Hub.

“We are at greater risk of having problems with crops and other plants as the season goes along because there’s not as much moisture available for the crops to be able to grow,” he said. 

Todey said long-term drought could also create problems for water quality. In Iowa, the amount of water flowing in the Raccoon River is about 25% of normal. 

At Des Moines Water Works, Iowa’s largest water utility, CEO Ted Corrigan said he’s keeping a close eye on the situation.

“We’re not suffering any impacts right now,” Corrigan said. “The recent rains have helped us manage our demand so that it’s about typical for this time of year and we’re easily able to meet that demand now.”

The drought started last summer. The Climate Prediction Center’s Adam Hartman said it’s hard to say how long it will continue. Summertime brings localized thunderstorms and those are harder to forecast.