The Latest: Drought continues as monsoon season nears
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Latest on drought conditions in the Southern Plains (all times local):
Climate prediction experts believe the upcoming monsoon season in the nation’s Southwest could be wetter than normal, but even an exceptionally wet season is unlikely to lift the region’s annual rainfall to average levels.
Weather forecasters said Monday sparse rainfall in the U.S. Southern Plains since autumn has caused drought conditions to worsen, especially in the Four Corners region of Colorado, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico.
Brian Klimowski, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Flagstaff, Arizona, says the region should begin receiving monsoonal moisture during the first half of July, later than normal.
Becky Bolinger, Colorado’s assistant state climatologist, says warmer-than-normal temperatures and sporadic rainfall has exacerbated wildfire conditions in the region. Fire restrictions are in place in all four states.
The U.S. Drought Monitor says moderate to extreme drought also persists in parts of Oklahoma and Texas.
President Donald Trump has approved Oklahoma’s request for a disaster designation after wildfires scorched western parts of the state in the spring.
Trump approved the declaration Monday and ordered federal assistance to supplement state and local recovery efforts in areas affected by wildfires April 11-20.
Federal funding will be made available to local governments and nonprofit organizations to pay for work and repairs to public facilities damaged by wildfires in Custer, Dewey, Harmon, Roger Mills, and Woodward counties.
Two deaths and multiple injuries were attributed to wildfires that burned more than 547 square miles (1417 sq. kilometers), causing an estimated $26 million in damage to livestock, pastures, fences and buildings.
The U.S. Drought Monitor says moderate to extreme conditions still are affecting parts of Oklahoma, Texas, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.