Extreme drought levels now cover more than a quarter of Minnesota

Drought levels across the state of Minnesota are now at their worst in the past two years.

The latest drought data released early Thursday morning by the U.S. Drought Monitor shows extreme drought now covers more than a quarter of Minnesota – 26.07%, to be exact. Extreme drought conditions stretch from southern Beltrami and Itasca counties to the Iowa border, as well as parts of Pipestone and Rock counties in the state’s southwest corner.

Two years ago, the drought monitor says while there were no parts of the state in exceptional drought, more than 23.5% of the state was in an extreme drought, and more than half of the state was considered to have severe drought conditions, or worse.

The new data shows, exceptional drought is now up to 2.82%, double from last week’s report of 1.4%. Parts of Aitkin, Carlton and Pine counties are seeing these conditions, as well as Fillmore, Freeborn, Houston and Mower counties in the southeast corner of the state.

While all of the state is experiencing some sort of drought, the least dry conditions are in a large swath of land stretching from St. Louis to Cook County in the northeast.

A year ago, there were no areas in Minnesota experiencing exceptional or extreme drought, and less than 5% reported severe drought conditions. Just over 58% of the state wasn’t in any kind of drought.

In Wisconsin, the percentage of land experiencing exceptional drought nearly doubled, jumping from 1.77% last week to 3.29% this week. Those conditions can be found in the southwest part of the state, including Crawford, Grant, Richland and Vernon counties.

Meanwhile, Pierce, Polk and St. Croix counties vary in conditions, ranging from abnormally dry to severe drought. Parts of Barron, Burnett and Washburn counties also have extreme drought levels reported.

A year ago, Wisconsin – like Minnesota – had no exceptional or extreme drought conditions reported. In addition, less than three percent of the state had severe drought, and nearly 74% of the state didn’t have any abnormally dry conditions.

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS Chief Meteorologist Ken Barlow says rain and thunderstorms are expected this weekend, and some areas may receive more than an inch of rain. Although it won’t be enough to break the drought, the rain will be welcomed.

CLICK HERE for the latest forecast and HERE for an interactive radar.