Recent rainfall not enough to lift drought conditions
As the state continues to deal with an unusually dry summer, more and more counties are facing drought conditions. Itasca County is one of many counties recently put under burning restrictions to reduce the risk of fire spread.
“Grand Rapids is currently experiencing severe drought, the second of four drought intensity classifications (moderate, severe, extreme and exceptional),” Greg Husak, Lead Information Officer with Ecological and Water Resources stated. “The northwest corner of Itasca County is experiencing extreme drought.”
This second classification of drought conditions states, “Severe drought. Ground is hard, fire danger is high, river flows are low, well levels decrease.”
As of July 27, the majority of Itasca County is classified as a moderate risk area for fire danger. This is defined as, “Fires start easily and spread at a moderate rate,” according to www.dnr.state.mn.us/forestry/fire/firerating_restrictions.html
According to a Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) press release, “This year, more than 1,600 wildfires have burned 35,000-plus acres in Minnesota.”
The Minnesota DNR announced it would be expanding burning restrictions beginning July 27 at 12:01 a.m. Itasca County was previously put under burn restrictions and remains under the category of “Restricted - Agency Approved Permits Only.” Currently, the entire state of Minnesota is under some form of burn restrictions.
Under the restrictions:
No campfires are allowed for dispersed, remote, or backcountry camping on all lands.
No campfires – with or without a ring – are allowed on any DNR-managed lands. This applies to all campsites, cabins, picnic and other day-use areas. Camp stoves are permitted.
Outside DNR-managed lands, campfires are allowed in established fire rings associated with a home, cabin, campground, or resort. Check with the local land manager for additional restrictions.
No fireworks may be ignited on any public or private land outside city limits. Check with your local community for any additional restrictions.
The state will not issue burning permits for brush or yard waste.
Burn restrictions will stay in effect until environmental conditions show a significant reduction in fire danger. At this point, the DNR commissioner can terminate the restrictions.
Along with a risk of wildfires, the state is managing the consequences of a drought. The DNR announced the state of Minnesota has entered a drought warning phase with 72 percent of Minnesota experiencing severe drought and 18 percent experiencing extreme drought, as of July 20.
“Drought is defined as a period of abnormally dry and/or unusually hot weather sufficiently prolonged for the corresponding deficiency of water to cause a serious hydrologic imbalance,” as stated in a Minnesota DNR press release. “When a serious hydrologic imbalance occurs, soil moisture reserves, groundwater supplies, lake levels and stream flows are negatively impacted. Water-dependent industries including agriculture, public utilities, forestry, and tourism are profoundly affected.”
Droughts do occur naturally in Minnesota with some level of moderate to severe drought occurring in the state almost every year, according to the Minnesota DNR website. Under current conditions, there will need to be three to five inches of precipitation over a period of about two weeks to alleviate drought conditions.
“Soils are more efficiently replenished by multiple rainfall events than by any single heavy rainfall event,” as stated on the Minnesota DNR website. “Surface water and groundwater respond somewhat differently over time.”
The Grand Rapids area is experiencing a precipitation deficit of four to seven inches below normal, compared to precipitation normals based on 30-year daily averages, according to Minnesota State Climatologist with the Minnesota DNR Luigi Romolo. Although the area has seen some rainfall over the last few days, particularly with Monday night’s storm, it wasn’t enough rain to make a significant change for the better.
“We may not see worsening drought conditions over the next week, but we should not expect any improvement,” said Romolo.
Romolo added that the Grand Rapids area is not expected to receive much rainfall over the upcoming five to seven days. He encouraged residents to practice water conservation efforts such as taking shorter showers, turning the water off when you brush your teeth or shave, and limiting watering your lawn.