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Parts of the Northland now officially in drought

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It's not a surprise, but it is now official: Duluth, Superior and Cloquet are in a drought.

But while lawns and fields are growing brown and brittle in the Twin Ports -- with more heat on the way -- areas to the north have seen summer rainfall much greater than normal.

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"We've had a lot of haves and have-nots," said Steve Gohde, observing program leader with the National Weather Service in Duluth. "While the immediate areas around Duluth have been dry, areas north of the Laurentian Divide seem to be much wetter than normal."

Thursday's update from the U.S. Drought Monitor showed an area of moderate drought in southern St. Louis, Carlton, western Douglas, northern Pine and southern Aitkin counties. Two Harbors, Grand Rapids and the Iron Range are listed as "abnormally dry," while areas along the Canadian border are not experiencing dry conditions.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources reported that fire danger is high.

"So far this summer, fire occurrence has been low, but a predicted dry spell could change that quickly," the DNR reported in a news release. "Continuing warm, dry weather could expand the area of concern to the Arrowhead region in Northeastern Minnesota, where lightning ignitions could become more likely if thunderstorms develop with light rain."

As of Thursday, burning was allowed in Minnesota with a permit. For updates on fire danger ratings and burning permit restrictions, go to mndnr.gov/forestry/fire.

In Northwestern Wisconsin, the DNR reported that the fire danger was high in Douglas and Bayfield counties on Thursday and burning was not allowed. The fire danger was moderate elsewhere. For updates, go to dnr.wi.gov/topic/ForestFire.

Nearly 81 percent of Minnesota is abnormally dry or worse this week, the Drought Monitor reported, an increase from 32 percent last week. About

10 percent of the state is now in drought, a jump from less than 2 percent last week.

Wisconsin is faring better, with 42 percent of the state abnormally dry or worse, up from 23 percent last week. Two percent of Wisconsin is now in drought, up from none last week.

In Duluth, the rainfall from July 1 through Thursday -- 2.28 inches -- is the city's seventh-lowest on record for that period, Gohde said. The average is about 6½ inches.

For the month, rainfall in Duluth is almost 2 inches below normal. Thanks to the heavy late-season snow the city experienced last spring, the year-to-date precipitation in Duluth remains above average, though by less than an inch.

Gohde said a large, broad ridge of warm air has been parked over the Upper Midwest, with storms riding up and over the top -- largely missing the Twin Ports in recent weeks, but dropping plenty of rain in areas along the Canadian border, such as International Falls.

International Falls has seen 9.52 inches of rain from July 1 through Thursday -- the city's eighth-greatest rainfall on record for that period. The average is just less than 6 inches.

After a brief respite from the record heat the Northland experienced earlier in the week, the region is forecast to see temperatures climb back into the upper 80s and possibly the 90s this weekend and into early next week. Gohde said high humidity will return, too.

There are a few chances for rain in the coming days, the Weather Service reported Thursday, with scattered showers and storms possible each day from Saturday through Tuesday.

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