Drought eased to a greater extent in Nebraska this past week than anywhere else in the nation, according the U.S. Drought Monitor.
Rain and snow brought about widespread improvements in the state, which has long been the epicenter of one of the worst droughts in modern history.
Last week, 76 percent of Nebraska was in exceptional drought, the worst possible category, according to the Monitor, a weekly map published by the National Drought Mitigation Center.
This week, that number declined to 15 percent. Improvements should continue as a result of continued rain and snow. The map, published today, is a snapshot of conditions nationwide as of Tuesday.
The entire State of Nebraska remains mired in severe to extreme drought, however, so the improvement has been one of degrees.
Al Dutcher, Nebraska's state climatologist, said rain and snow have replenished needed moisture the top layer of soil, but that subsurface soils remain starved for water.
The improved conditions will allow crops to get off to a good start this spring, he said, but won't be enough to help them survive a typical hot, dry spell in midsummer.
Continued rain is needed through the rest of spring, he has said.
Neighboring states that also saw improved conditions: South Dakota, Kansas, Oklahoma, Iowa and Missouri.
Nationwide, about 51 percent of the lower 48 states are in drought, down from a peak of 65 percent in late September.