Moisture could help end drought

NEW ULM – A spring storm dumped 6 to 8 inches of wet, heavy snow on New Ulm and the surrounding area on Thursday, setting the tone for cooler than normal weather in the coming days.

Thursday’s snowfall brings the total snow for April to 8 inches, according to New Ulm-based National Weather Observer Victor Roepke. Total moisture for April is nearly 3 inches.

National Weather Service meteorologist Michelle Margraf said the resulting snow melt from Thursday’s weather and recent precipitation has helped start an end to Minnesota’s intense drought, which has been ongoing since early last year. Because there is no longer a frost barrier in the soil due to warmer weather, this new precipitation actually will soak into the soil, Margraf said. However, the severity of the drought has placed the state in such a deficit that 7 inches of precipitation beyond normal April averages are needed to make up the lost moisture.

“The top soil is now soaked, but a lot more water is needed for the important stuff like the deep soil and the aquifers,” said Margraf. “We have a good amount of water still coming, but it will take a lot to really tackle the problem.”

Because the ground is now saturated with water, the majority of the coming precipitation will drain directly into rivers, increasing flood risks, Margraf added.

New Ulm should not be threatened by flooding because the newly built levee along the Minnesota River would protect against rising waters. The frequently flooded roads near the Cottonwood River in New Ulm are the only areas at risk if precipitation exceeds projections in the coming week.

Looking into the future, the NWS projects temperatures in the low 40s for the next week with some precipitation. The weather will resemble February conditions, compared to normal April average temperatures of 55 to 60 degrees.

(Josh Moniz can be e-mailed at