Wet winter takes country out of drought

Much of the country that was suffering from summer drought has seen a major turnaround.

“We are coming off our wettest U.S. winter on record,” said Brad Rippey, meteorologist at the USDA. Average December-to-February precipitation across the Lower 48 was nine inches, according to Rippey.

“And that just barely gets past the old record that was set during the strong El Nino winter of 1997-98, 8.99 inches,” said Rippey, in an interview provided by the USDA.

Coming off a wet fall, Rippey said areas of drought have continued to disappear since December.

“We saw total drought coverage decreasing during the winter months,” he said, “from 23 percent of the country when winter began down to just under 12 percent by early March.”

That, said Rippey, is well below the 20 percent of the country that normally experiences drought conditions at any given time.

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