By MATT MILNER
Courier staff writer
---- — OTTUMWA — It's official: Drought is back in southeast Iowa.
The U.S. Drought Monitor has categorized much of the state as “abnormally dry” for several weeks. That's the first of five levels the monitor uses, but it avoids the word drought. With the report released Thursday morning, though, there's no avoiding it.
More than a third of the state is now in moderate drought. That includes most of Marion and Wapello counties and all of Mahaksa County. Only the northeastern portion of the state has sufficient moisture to avoid any drought category.
The re-emergence of drought is a dramatic reversal from the spring, when record rainfall raised flooding concerns. From March through May, Ottumwa was more than 10 inches ahead of the average precipitation.
But in June the water quit coming. How bad has it been? From June 1 to Aug. 14, there has been less rainfall than during last summer's drought. Records show Ottumwa has received 4.79 inches of rain in that period this year, compared to 5.78 inches in 2012.
The big difference between the lack of rainfall this year and the summer of 2012 is temperature. Nine out of the first 15 days of August 2012 were above normal. Only two days so far this month have been above normal.