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Drought eases slightly

WICHITA (AP) -- Recent rain has helped ease the drought slightly in some sections of Kansas, but weather officials said the state still needs considerably more moisture.

The amount of Kansas in extreme or exceptional drought dropped from approximately 70 percent to less than 65 percent, according to a report released Thursday by the U.S. Drought Monitor. The improvements after the early March rains were mostly in east-central Kansas, the Wichita Eagle reported.

"There's been a little bit of improvement," National Weather Service meteorologist Andy Kleinsasser said.

Long-term moisture shortfalls persist across the state, however, despite the recent rain and last month's heavy snows.

Kleinsasser said Kansas still has "precipitation deficits" of up to 20 inches across much of the state, particularly in southern and eastern sections.

"We need a really good spring to early summer" to make a meaningful dent in the long-term drought, he said.

AccuWeather Vice President Mike Smith said the recent moisture has been good news for farmers.

"In terms of the winter wheat, I think it helped a great deal," Smith said.

Smith said he has spoken recently with farmers from Eureka to Ness City pleased with the recent rain and snow. A light, steady, soaking rain can be more beneficial than a 2-inch rain that falls in 40 minutes because it allows the soil to absorb the moisture, he said.

"They all thought the moisture's timing and amount and the rate was all very, very helpful," Smith said.