REGIONAL— A snowy winter has vanished into a persistently dry spring after weeks of below average precipitation, and persistent dry winds across the North Country. That’s put fire officials on alert, as conditions day-to-day have bordered on extreme, depending mostly on the wind and humidity.
The Department of Natural Resources has the fire danger currently listed as high across the North Country, with central St. Louis County rated as very high and southern parts of the county as extreme. The National Weather service issued red flag warnings earlier this week for all of St. Louis County as a combination of persistent wind and low humidity raised the risks of wildfire.
Fire restrictions remain in place across the area for now and will likely remain so until green-up is well underway.
While the first half of this past winter was exceptionally snowy, precipitation has largely stayed south of the North Country since late February. Since March 1, most reporting stations in the North Country have seen half of their normal precipitation. Tower has been the driest station, picking up just 2.02 inches of precipitation since the first of March, or less than half of the 4.2 inches it would have received in an average year. Other stations in the area saw only slightly more precipitation.
The precipitation shortage has pushed roughly the northwestern half of St. Louis County and all of Koochiching and Itasca counties into the first stage of drought, with the U.S. Drought Monitor now posting the area as “Abnormally Dry” as of late last week.
The dry spell comes in the wake of an exceptionally wet fall, which boosted lakes and rivers to water levels not seen in several years. Now, lake and river levels are falling rapidly, with most rivers in the region, including the Little Fork and the Vermilion, now well below the 25th percentile for May flow.
Chances for precipitation do increase this coming weekend. The latest forecast calls for partly sunny skies, temperatures in the mid-70s, with on and off chances for showers and thunderstorms
Read more:: Parched spring raises fire risk in North Country