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USA - Over half of Wisconsin is in moderate to extreme drought conditions

As of June 15, over half of Wisconsin is experiencing moderate, severe, or extreme drought.

That’s an increase from one-quarter of the state experiencing some form of drought just two weeks ago.

According to the latest drought monitor provided by the United States Department of Agriculture, approximately 55% of the state is experiencing at least moderate drought conditions, including at least part of 52 of the state’s 72 counties. Included in that total is 8% of the state, including at least parts of 14 counties in southeastern Wisconsin as well as Vernon and Crawford counties, currently experiencing severe drought conditions. An additional 0.8% of the state, covering all of Kenosha and parts of Walworth and Racine counties, is now categorized as experiencing severe drought.

A moderate drought indicates dry or very dry topsoil, which damages some plants, crops and pastures, creates water shortages, and some voluntary water-use restrictions are requested, such as the City of Stanley’s request earlier this week. A severe drought indicates that pasture and crop losses are likely if conditions persist, and water restrictions have historically been enacted due to water shortages as water shortages are common during moderate drought periods, such as the Village of Lake Hallie’s outdoor watering ban imposed earlier this week. Extreme drought results in major damage to crops, pastures, and widespread water shortages, as well as fish kills being reported in shallower bodies of water, especially for pike species.

The regions most impacted include southeastern Wisconsin counties currently under extreme drought. Severe drought conditions exist in the southeastern part of the state, including Milwaukee and Madison, as well as a small part of Vernon and Crawford counties, including Viroqua. At least moderate drought is being experienced by more than half of the state, south of a line from Prescott up to parts of Chippewa, Taylor, and Clark counties before roughly following Highway 29 to Green Bay, including all of Door Co, as well as cities such as Eau Claire, La Crosse, Wausau, Appleton, and Green Bay. Over half of the area north of this line is experiencing abnormally dry conditions, including Chippewa Falls, Rice Lake, and Superior.

According to the United States Drought Monitor operated by the United States Dept. of Agriculture and by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, parts of Minnesota, Iowa, Michigan, and Illinois are also experiencing severe drought. The area north of Chicago is also experiencing extreme drought.

Some of the historic impacts of the dry conditions in Wisconsin, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, include bans on burning, brown lawns and fields, lower lake levels than normal, an increase in watering landscaping and gardens, and slight impacts to pastures and crops. At the moderate drought stage, hay prices historically begin to rise, and horse sales begin to increase. Severe drought impacts include the loss of crops and pastures, as well as water restrictions and shortages. Extreme droughts have led to widespread watering bans in the past, as well as long-term crop and pasture damage, as well as fish kills being reported in shallower bodies of water. There are no recorded historical impacts for exceptional drought in the U.S. Drought Monitor.

The USDA estimates the affected population in Wisconsin in drought areas to be over 4.9 million, with over 25.9 million in the Midwest currently in a drought area. Conditions in most of the nation’s southwest are worse, currently in exceptional drought.

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