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Panhandle drought conditions improving

NewsChannel 10

Amarillo, Texas - It's good news for farmers, ranchers, and just about everyone in the Texas panhandle.

This week's drought monitor map shows things are gradually improving.

Just 14% of the state is still experiencing exceptional drought conditions.

Compare that to one year ago, when almost all of Texas was in the driest stages, but we're not out of the woods yet.

Things are looking up and greening up in the Texas panhandle, thanks to recent rainfall.

With the exception of a handful of area counties, most have emerged from extreme drought.

National Weather Service Meteorologist Lance Goehring says, "Our rain has been fairly widespread in the Texas panhandle, but just south of us, down in the south plains they haven't quite gotten the widespread steady rain that we've gotten in the past week or so."

It's helping the area slowly come out of the worst drought on the books.

It's also bringing about better crop yields, and saving farmers money on irrigation.

But while things are improving on the surface, underneath is a different story.

Dr. Stephen Amosson with the Texas AgriLife Extension explains, "You cannot replace subsoil moisture that is totally non-existent in just one year of normal rainfall. It's going to take a couple of years."

What will also take a couple of years to replace, are destroyed pastures and depleted cattle inventories.

Amosson says, "Because so many cattle had to go to market and be slaughtered last year, they are going to be struggling to find calves to put into those feedlots, and that's going to put them in jeopardy."

But while everyone is hoping this is a recovery year, even that's not certain.

Goehring says, "We are coming out of La Nina and going into a more neutral pattern, which we could be drier than normal, or wetter than normal during a neutral pattern."

If things don't go so well, this year could be bad for farmers once again.

Amosson says, "Sometimes when we go through dry periods in a normal year, we can survive those because we have subsoil moisture. In this case we don't. So if it does turn out dry, we could definitely hurt crop yields again this year."

Experts say the high plains need consistent rainfall at above average levels over a period of a few years, for the area to return to normal conditions.

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