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ND drought in holding pattern

Cattle graze in Morton County, N.D., on Aug. 1, 2017. The area is among a portion of the state in exceptional drought. Jenny Schlecht / Forum News Service

BISMARCK -- About 80 percent of North Dakota remains at least abnormally dry, and that isn't likely to change anytime soon.

Bismarck National Weather Service hydrologist Allen Schlag said most of North Dakota's surface soil temperatures are at or below freezing. What moisture does come will likely lay on top, if it is doesn't evaporate, he said.

From now until March, the drought monitor map, which is issued every Thursday, shouldn't change much from its current pattern, he said.

"We're waiting for what moisture winter brings us," Schlag said. "Very important along with that is, how does it come off in the spring?"

January and February will likely each log a half-inch of moisture, he said.

Rising temperatures in March bring potential for heavy, wet snow or rain, with further precipitation in April and May, he said.

North Dakota saw a dry first half of summer with decent moisture later on, Schlag said. Western farmers and ranchers were hit hard in particular, with dry soil and little runoff into livestock ponds.

Adams County extension agent Julie Kramlich said drought conditions caused decreased forage, hayland and production in her area.

The U.S. Drought Monitor indicates half the county is still experiencing severe drought, as are Divide and Williams counties. Portions of Bowman and Sioux counties are also in severe drought. Meanwhile, the Red River Valley is largely drought-free.

Kramlich and Schlag both said moisture will be vital to mitigate the remaining drought conditions. But that will take time.

"Come next spring, it will be a bit nice to a bit more normal, and I take that with a grain of a salt because there isn't such a thing as normal in North Dakota," Schlag said.

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