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Above-average rain eases moderate drought

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — There’s really no mystery involved in getting rid of drought. All you’ve got to do is add water.

An August that turned out to be the eighth-wettest in New Mexico history and a September that continues to have better-than-average rain pushed back moderate drought in the state from 26.6 percent a month ago to less than 4 percent now.

That’s the lowest it has been since an unusually wet 2015 eliminated short-term drought in New Mexico in December of last year. The state was drought-free until March, when moderate drought crawled over 18.5 percent of the state.

“Certainly we got some precip back,” said Royce Fontenot, senior hydrologist in the Albuquerque office of the National Weather Service. “We had a really nice August, well over normal precipitation in the southeast part of the state.”

The statewide rainfall average for the state last month was 3.65 inches. Average rainfall for New Mexico in August is 2.47 inches.

“September continues to see those above-normal rainfall totals, particularly in the southeast,” Fontenot said during Thursday’s meeting of the New Mexico Drought Monitoring Workgroup. The group is made up of members of the National Weather Service and representatives of state and federal agencies.

Fontenot said there have also been impressive rainfall totals over the past 60 days in Catron County in west-central New Mexico.

“New Mexico has moistened up nicely,” he said.

A month ago, moderate drought formed a crescent that stained portions of the southeastern and east-central counties of Otero, Chaves, Eddy, Lea, Roosevelt, Curry, De Baca, Quay and Guadalupe. Last month, moderate drought also stretched up the western edge of the state from Hidalgo through Grant, Catron, Cibola, McKinley and San Juan counties.

Now, however, moderate drought is restricted to much more limited portions of Guadalupe, Quay, Curry and Roosevelt counties on the eastern side of the state and Catron, Cibola, McKinely and San Juan counties out west.

Last month, there was a spot of severe drought in Lea County, just north of Hobbs. That’s gone now. In fact, there is no severe drought anywhere in the state.

A month ago, 87 percent of the state was abnormally dry. Now, less than 47 percent has that ranking.

Fontenot said remnants of Hurricane Newton and other tropical storms helped clear up moderate drought in New Mexico.

“Two-thirds of the state is doing pretty well,” Fontenot said.