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In this file photo, cattle graze parched pasture land in July 2017 in western Morton County. Tom Stromme / Bismarck Tribune

Drought conditions continue to recede in North Dakota

BISMARCK — The drought that held North Dakota in a tight grip even before summer began, receded in many parts of the state during the past week as a stripe of heavy rain cut across the region from the central High Plains into the eastern Dakotas.

With .64 inch falling in the Bismarck and Mandan areas in the past week, rain totals for the year have accumulated to 13.03 inches, according to Weather Underground. Average rainfall for the year to date is 15.27 inches.

Exceptional drought was the only category that did not budge this past week, maintaining its hold on 0.41 percent of the state in the far northwest, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Drought remains strong in Montana.

Here are the remaining changes in North Dakota during the past week:

• Areas experiencing no drought, primarily in the southeast portion of the state, increased from 0.13 percent to 11.07 percent.

• Abnormally dry areas dropped from 99.87 percent to 88.93 percent.

• Areas of moderate drought dropped from 87.35 percent to 62.85 percent.

• Severe drought saw a decrease from 32.87 percent to 23.49 percent.

• Areas of extreme drought, located in the northwest corner of North Dakota, moved slightly from 3.46 percent to 3.36 percent.

Lingering effects from both Dakotas' punishing summer drought left 57 percent of the rangeland and pastures rated very poor to poor on Sept. 24 in those states, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

That percentage has dropped since July 30, when North Dakota led the nation among major production states in very poor to poor ratings for rangeland and pastures at 78 percent and barley at 29 percent, according to data provided by the Weekly Weather and Crop Bulletin.

Just before summer began on May 23, moderate drought covered 4.52 percent of the contiguous U.S. — a Drought Monitor-era record low. By early August, 21.79 percent of the country was experiencing moderate drought. Currently, 13.81 percent of the country is in moderate drought.