Our network

'Exceptional' drought area in Arkansas triples | Weather

Title (Max 100 Characters)

'Exceptional' drought area in Arkansas triples

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- Red, orange and brown, they are the colors of fall but you can find them all over Conway County in the middle of July.

"It's really developed over just one and a half month period or so. This is what's called a flash drought. In other words, one that comes on very suddenly," says John Robinson with the National Weather Service at Little Rock.

He says hot temperatures and little rainfall since May has caused the U.S. Drought Monitor to put more than 10 percent of the state in the most intense drought category.

"If you're in an exceptional drought, that would be something you would expect to occur perhaps every twenty five to fifty years so to get up into the exceptional category is really doing something," says Robinson.

All of Conway and Perry counties along with parts of nine other northwestern counties are now considered exceptionally dry a drastic decline since the drought began in May. 

 Joe Fox, Director of the Arkansas Forestry Commission says a few showers last week brought some wildfire relief to much of the state but soon, he expects the potential for fire to go from bad to worse.

"We'll likely have to move the state from high fire danger status that we have today back to extreme fire danger in just a few days if we don't get some rain," says Fox.

"The more it heats, the more it dries out, the more it dries out, the more it heats and you get into a vicious cycle until you get a major change in the weather pattern," says Robinson.

It's a change that Robinson isn't expecting anytime soon and without it, more of the state could reach critical conditions.

"If we don't get quite a few showers around here in the next week, I would very much expect that we'll see much more of the state listed as exceptional drought," says Robinson. "On very hot, dry days where the humidities are low, evaporation can be as much as a half an inch a day so you can see a rainfall of half an inch, basically the effects are gone in just two or three days after that."

Robinson says some parts of the state have experienced the driest June and July months on record and it could take more than 15 inches of rainfall to get the state back to normal. But all that rainfall does not need to come all that the same time. With much of the ground so dry, several small rainfalls are needed to soften it up or flash flooding could become another issue.