Douglas County and northeast Kansas are in a moderate drought with no indication that will soon change, despite the expected return of more seasonal temperatures.
Kyle Poage, meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Topeka, said Lawrence has received 1.01 inches of rain so far this year, which is 1.85 inches below normal. The city received a bit more rain Monday, but that went unrecorded because the sensors were down at the NWS weather station at Lawrence Municipal Airport because of a power loss, he said.
Surrounding readings suggest only a trace of rain fell Monday in Lawrence, although one station a mile south of Eudora reported 1.21 inches from a locally strong storm Monday, Poage said.
The dry start to the year follows a dry 2016. Poage said Lawrence ended last year with 32.74 inches of rain, or 5.81 inches below normal. Consequently, the University of Nebraska drought monitor lists drought conditions in Douglas County at level 2, which is moderate on a five-level scale with the fifth level being the most extreme.
Rain is in the forecast for late Friday and early Saturday as a cool front pushes through, returning temperatures to more seasonal norms, Poage said. The expected rainfall won’t do much to change dry conditions with about a quarter inch expected, he said.
“It’s not going to end the drought, but at least it’s something,” he said. Afternoon highs will top out in the 40s and 50s through the end of next week, he said.
Although Douglas County hasn’t experienced the devastating and deadly wildfires of central or western Kansas, rural fire departments have battled numerous grass fires the last month fed by the dry late-winter vegetation and blustery winds. Douglas County Emergency Management Director Teri Smith urged rural county residents to check the National Weather Service website, weather.gov, to learn the daily rangeland fire index. Controlled burns are prohibited on those days when the index is listed as very high, extreme or red flag, she said.
Rural residents are required to notify Douglas County Emergency Communications at 785-843-0250 if they plan to burn so that rural fire departments don’t respond to those reporting controlled burns, Smith said. Those planning to burn also should notify their local fire department, she said.