Iowa's drought situation is changing for the better, with less than half of the state now considered as suffering from extreme drought.
The percentage of Iowa in that category, the second most serious shown by the U.S. Drought Monitor, dropped to 49.94 percent in this week's report. That's just a hair under 50 percent, but represents a significant drop from the prior week's 62.94 percent.
Eastern Iowa saw the most relief. A band of extreme drought had persisted in east-central Iowa up through last week's map. It was gone this week. And the area of moderate drought in northeastern Iowa, two steps below the extreme level, expanded.
There was little change in southeast Iowa in the past week. Marion and Mahaska County both continue to see extreme drought conditions over the majority of their territory. The rest of the area remains under severe drought.
The report matches well with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's crop condition report for the week, released Thursday after a two-day delay caused by Hurricane Sandy. Iowa saw only 3.9 days where the weather was suitable for farm work last week and rains caused continuing improvement in the state's soil moisture levels.
State Climatologist Harry Hillaker reported the system that kept Iowa wet even produced some slight accumulations of snow in far northwestern Iowa. The statewide average for October precipitation was 3.11 inches, the first time since April where Iowa saw above-average rainfall.
Southeast Iowa did even better, with 4.49 inches of rain falling in the Ottumwa area. That's nearly two inches more than a normal October.