Rain, snow give short reprieve to drought
BEMIDJI - With more than an inch of rain and snow recently, the area received a bit of a reprieve for an ongoing drought.
"It's definitely a step in the right direction," said Pete Boulay, a climatologist with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in St. Paul.
But just how much of a reprieve won't be known until Thursday, when the U.S. Drought Monitor releases its weekly report.
The drought monitor analyzes data received through Tuesday mornings and shows the area is currently in a moderate drought, an improvement from a severe rating two weeks ago.
The Bemidji area, from last August through Feb. 29, received 4-5 inches fewer inches of total precipitation than normal.
The area received between 1 and 1.5 inches of precipitation from Sunday to Monday morning, according to the National Weather Service in Grand Forks.
Bemidji received 1.09 inches of precipitation during the Sunday-to-Monday overnight, Boulay said.
The city's normal precipitation in April is about 1.5 inches, so Bemidji received close to a month's worth of precipitation in one day, he said.
"This is the direction that we want to be going," Boulay said.
The rain and snow offered a respite for area firefighters, but unless it continues, the break may be short-lived, said B.J. Glesener, regional fire staff with the DNR Division of Forestry.
"It makes it a little better in the short-term," he said. "In a severe drought, what happens is that any moisture that we get will give us a day or two reprieve."
But once the temperatures and winds pick up, so do the fires, he noted.
Glesener said there have been 183 fires for 9,000 acres this season in the Northwest Region, which runs from Alexandria to the Canadian border."
That is exceptionally high as firefighters usually face about one-third of that number, Glesener said.
The last fire of 2011 was the day after Christmas and lasted through the first week of January. The first fire of 2012 was around Valentine's Day.
"Normally we're off for a good three or four months," he said.
Even with the rain and snow, firefighters still will face nuisance fires, he said. They just get a short break from fighting the larger grass fires.
"Unless we keep getting rainfalls every few days, we can expect that we will be right back to it within a day of rain," Glesener said.
He asked the public to pay attention to what is going on, to what they are doing. Even with precipitation, he said, the tall grasses are dry and it won't take very long after the snowfall for them to completely dry out.
"Be diligent about what you are doing," he said.