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Drought slowly returning to Minnesota

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Farmers rejoiced just a few months ago when a wet spring that drenched Minnesota ended a drought that had plagued much of the state since summer 2012. The Twin Cities recored its sixth-wettest March-through-May ever, the Star Tribune noted in early June.

But drought is creeping back, according to new figures from the U.S. Drought Monitor. Ten percent of the state is now in drought, compared to less than 2 percent last week; and 81 percent of the state is abnormally dry or worse, a spike from 32 percent last week, according to the monitor.

The data say a new area of moderate drought has developed in Carlton and northern Pine counties in eastern Minnesota, where farmers are fretting over stressed crops and parched pastures, the Associated Press reported.

The drought spread is due to July and August rainfall shortfalls of 2 to 5 inches, according to the Minnesota Climatology Working Group at the University of Minnesota.

In most of the state in the last 30 days, precipitation has been half the normal level, prompting fire managers to urge people to use caution in dry areas, the Associated Press reported.

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Drought tightens grip on Minnesota

Federal officials say more than 80 percent of Minnesota is abnormally dry. A week ago it was less than two-thirds. The new drought map includes the northern half of the Twin Cities area. But southern Minnesota is the state's most parched region.

Drought over for most of Minnesota

Nearly the entire state was in a moderate to severe drought, but three months later that's down to about 10 percent. A climatologist told the Associated Press rain has recharged dry soils, but above-average precipitation needs to continue for Minnesota to fully catch up.