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By WeatherBug Meteorologists, Greta Easthom and Cody Snell
As a package deal, exacerbated drought accompanies the blistering, dry heat that has been especially tormenting the western U.S. Elsewhere, rainfall has provided temporary relief to pockets stifling under the August heat.
The Northwest and northern Plains have seen a widespread worsening of drought, after experiencing several days in a row under a ridge of high pressure. Daily highs are averaging 9 degrees Farenheit or more above normal in western Montana, the northern Intermountain West and the northern Great Basin. This has caused severe drought conditions to spread across much of Oregon and southwest Washington, as well as northern Montana, Idaho and pockets of North Dakota. If that weren't enough, the hot and dry weather has made the Northwest extremely susceptible to wildfire flare-ups. Through the weekend, the northern Rockies and Intermountain West remain under a Red Flag Warning.
Meanwhile, the Southwest and southern Rockies are seeing the nation’s worst drought conditions. Even with scattered showers and thunderstorms the last few weeks, extreme and exceptional drought continues to plague southern California to southern Colorado. The extreme heat is only causing soils to dry faster. Fires have also sparked due to the dry air and soil, creating poor air quality. Red Flag Warnings are in effect across northern California as well. More showers and thunderstorms are on the way over the next week but will be most likely in the Rockies and Arizona, where monsoonal moisture is most accessible.
Dry soil and low streams can also be found in the parts of the Deep South, Southern Plains and Lower Midwest. Patches of extreme drought are being reported across northern Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Texas. A persistent storm system this weekend will quench central Texas of the areas riddled with increased extreme drought.
The rest of the U.S., including the Southeast, Mid-Atlantic, Northeast, Great Lakes, Ohio and Tennessee valleys are seeing limited drought concerns. A few small patches of moderate drought exist in New England and Michigan. Summer storms will continue to alleviate any dryness as they have this past week but will unfortunately skip over the parched portions of Maine, where rainfall totals have been near or below one-third of normal.