Drought spreading in Arrowhead, with no rain in forecast
Parts of Northeastern Minnesota have been without much rain for weeks now, with an officially severe drought spreading in parts of St. Louis, Lake and Cook counties.
The U.S. Drought Monitor shows a spreading area of abnormally dry conditions across northern Minnesota.
The effects have been obvious. Birch trees have turned yellow and are dropping their leaves weeks earlier than usual under the stress of drought. Bears are desperate for food because late-summer berries and nut crops never materialized. Streams are dry and lake levels are dropping. And the danger of forest fires spreading is now high across the northern tier of counties.
"You can hear the grass crunching as you walk," said Duluth's Gene Shaw, talking about walking in the woods around his cabin near Ely last weekend.
Duluth, where overall rainfall in recent weeks has been slightly above normal, is not in the drought area. Rainfall in Duluth for the six-week period from late July to early September has been slightly above normal, and well above normal south of the Twin Ports.
In some places, though, rainfall totals during the six-week period were among the lowest on record, according to Greg Spoden, assistant state climatologist, in a report released Wednesday.
The National Weather Service in Duluth noted that rainfall in many areas has been 3 to 4 inches below normal since late July, while temperatures have been 1 to 2 degrees warmer than normal, which helps speed up the drying process.
The Weather Service volunteer weather watcher in Embarrass, for example, reported July rainfall more than an inch below normal, August a full 2 inches below normal, and just 0.13 inches of rain so far in September, a month when Embarrass usually gets nearly 4 inches of rain.
In northern St. Louis County and northern Lake County, stream flow values rank below the 10th percentile for this time of year, meaning they are this low at this time of year only one year out of 10.
The drought, where it hits hardest, could even affect this year's fall colors.
"If you have a severe enough drought like is happening in some areas, it dampens down the colors," said Jana Albers, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources forest health specialist. "In some cases the birch and the aspen just get crispy and fall off the tree."
The National Weather Service noted that much of region has seen little rain in September, with little chance of any rain until Monday, and that chance is slim.