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Mid-Missouri drought appears here to stay

Residents of mid-Missouri may want to stock-up on water as forecasters anticipate continued dry, hot conditions for the summer months.

June 1 marks the beginning of the three-month period designated by weather specialists as meteorological summer. For those already exhausted by the dry Missouri climate, it may be time to prepare for more of the same.

“If I had to bet on something, I would expect to see this extreme drought to expand more toward the southwest because we haven’t had much rain there,” said Andrew Labit, First Alert Meteorologist for KOMU 8.

Gov. Mike Parson late Wednesday signed an executive order declaring a drought alert in the state.

"With the summer months fast approaching, we want to be proactive to help mitigate the impacts of drought conditions," Parson said in a news release. "While we cannot control the weather, we are committed to doing everything we can to alleviate the strain drought causes for our agricultural families and protect our food supply chains."

The National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center outlooks are the primary resource for centers like the National Weather Service in St. Louis. Senior Service Hydrologist Mark Fuchs said that the three-month outlook is “somewhat optimistic,” but overall hard to predict.

“There’s maybe some hope for the future but the start of the summer looks to be on the hot side and the dry side,” Fuchs said. “The drought is worsening.”

Mid-Missouri is experiencing a drier climate than usual, with 78% of Boone County in “extreme drought,” according to the National Integrated Drought Information System.

The latest federal drought map was released Thursday morning, showing increased problems in mid-Missouri.

Precipitation levels for the year so far are 5.5 inches below average.

The drought is making water a hot commodity, and a necessary one to beat the heat. Both farmers and private citizens should expect higher water bills in the coming months as their usage increases.

Labit advised residents to stay on top of their watering, whether that be for agriculture, gardens or houseplants. He said that the forecast indicates better chances for rain in late June, but the local area would need significant help to lift it out of drought.

“We would need decent rain showers for approximately a week consistently to come back to a more moderate category,” Labit said. “For now, plan to stick around in at least a severe to moderate drought in June.”

Climate for the upcoming months can be difficult to predict, as meteorologists typically focus on a week to two-week timeframe.

Fuchs said there is optimism for above normal precipitation, particularly in southeastern Missouri, but this likelihood is only about 40-50%.

“Is there a chance that it may be below average precipitation?” Fuchs said. “Yes there is, it’s just not the biggest probability.”

The governor's drought alert is the first step in the state's drought mitigation plan, directing state agencies to work together to provide resources and assistance, according to the news release.

Additionally, the Missouri Department of Conservation is warning residents of the increased risk for wildfires that drought conditions can cause.

The Columbia Missourian is a community news organization managed by professional editors and staffed by Missouri School of Journalism students who do the reporting, design, copy editing, information graphics, photography and multimedia.