Winter storms slow – but can't stop – the drought

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Several well-placed storm systems were able to stave off further advancement of drought but weren't enough to eliminate it.

click image to zoomDrought MonitorThe Drought Monitor map released on Dec. 5, 2013. According to the latest “Drought Monitor” report, 31 percent of the country is in moderate or worse drought, virtually unchanged from last week’s report.

“There was negligible change in U.S. drought coverage during the seven-day drought-monitoring period, as tranquil weather prevailed in the wake of a pre-Thanksgiving storm across the South and East,” said Brad Rippey, meteorologist in the USDA’s Office of the Chief Economist. 

Improvement was noted in the Northeast, where drought coverage dropped from 7.8 percent to 7.5 percent -- thanks to the Thanksgiving storms.

In the West, conditions are beginning to take their toll. Some ranchers in California, where 82 percent of the state is in severe to extreme drought, are being forced to weigh their options, according to the California Farm Bureau. The rainy season failed to bring the relief these ranchers had hoped for.

"Hay growers are banking on the rain to make it grow, and if we don't get any rain for two or three months, then what has germinated will die," San Joaquin County (Calif.) rancher Denis Lewis said.

Read, “Ranchers weigh options as dry spell lingers.”

Others in California are concerned that the big blast of Arctic air could spell drought for yet another season.

"This is also a potential disaster," private meteorologist Steve Johnson told the Fresno (Calif.) Bee in an article here. "The correlation between drought years and extreme cold events is very high."

Click here to check out the full Drought Monitor report.

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