Dry spell may end this spring

FAIRMONT – While many people are winter-weary and ready to put away the snowblowers, the late-season moisture could help relieve the area drought. How much is still unknown.

“Right now, everything is still frozen,” said Greg Johanson of the Martin County Soil and Water office. “Once the ground starts to thaw, it will help. Any kind of moisture always makes a difference, but we’re still two to three weeks away before the ground thaws.”

The extent to which the recent moisture will boost the groundwater table is yet to be determined, but Department of Natural Resources hydrologist Leo Getsfried believes it already has helped surface waters.

“We’re seeing the rivers are back up, at least temporarily, and that’s running off into the lakes,” he said. “It’s not much benefit to the groundwater at this point, but it’s already turned around from where we’d thought we’d be at this time last month. March has been a pleasant surprise, but I don’t think we’re out of the woods.”

South-central Minnesota has received on average about 2 to 3 inches of moisture so far this month.

“We’re definitely seeing a high moisture content, with an inch and a half of rain,” Getsfried said. “That is a lot of moisture for this time of year.”

The real test of how much the moisture will play in easing the drought will be determined in the coming month. Getsfried said it will be a balancing act between a slow or quick snow melt.

“With a slow melt, some of that moisture may evaporate into the air, but with a quick thaw, we may see a lot more runoff and problems with flooding. So a quicker melt would not be good. But recent forecasts seem to indicate that we’re going to see a more gradual and orderly melt.”

Temperatures are forecast to remain in the 30s with another chance of rain and snow for the end of the week.