COLUMBIA — The late snowfall and consistent cold temperatures in March have pushed Boone County completely out of the drought zone, for now.
Two weeks ago, the U.S. Drought Monitor classified the county as abnormally dry. On Wednesday, the county was declared drought-free.
This month also could be the coldest March in Columbia in the last 30 years.
The National Weather Service reports that temperatures have averaged 36.7 degrees this month, compared with an average of 43.6 degrees in the years since 1889. The last year the monthly average was that low was 1983, when it was also 36.7 degrees.
Low temperatures keep evaporation rates at a minimum, according to the National Drought Mitigation Center.
A warming trend is expected to close out the month, which may push the average temperature higher. But even if gets up to 38.2 degrees, it would be the coldest March since 1995.
Climatologists credit the total amount of rain and snow this winter with curtailing the drought.
Since December, Columbia has received a total of 35 inches of snow and 10.7 inches of rain, according to data from the National Weather Service. Monday's snowfall of 9.6 inches broke Columbia's record of 6.1 inches for that day in 1912.
From December to March, the city typically receives 14.5 inches of rain on average but only 19.7 inches of snow.
The recent heavy snowfall has recharged soil moisture and filled stock ponds, so water is starting to work its way into the ground-water level, said Mark Svoboda, climatologist with the Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
"When you start the see recovery in those areas, we feel more comfortable removing those places from drought," he said.
Most of eastern Missouri is now drought-free, and only the area west of Saline, Pettis and Benton counties is considered abnormally dry. That portion makes up 34 percent of the state.
"The last time the entire state was drought-free was in June 2010," Svoboda said. "Coming off of a really bad drought like this one, it takes a while for the environment to recover."
Flooding or oversaturation is still a possibility, with the coming spring rains, Svoboda said. And drought may return.
"It could even be possible that Boone County goes dry in a month or two, and is back into a drought again."
Supervising editor is Jeanne Abbott.