The rain helped, but a lot more is needed.

The rain helped, but a lot more is needed.

The National Weather Service on Thursday posted an update on the ever-worsening drought, and now the entire Kansas City area is categorized as being in severe drought.

“Precipitation totals across the central United States are beginning to rival other previous drought years such as in 1988, the 1953-55 drought, and even the ‘dust bowl’ days of the ’30s,” the Weather Service writes in Thursday’s report.

The welcome rain overnight Wednesday came with a break in the days of 100-degree highs, and the Weather Service reports that Eastern Jackson County generally got half to three-fourths of an inch. At Kansas City International Airport, where the official records are kept, 0.35 inches was recorded.

That doesn’t change the overall math very much. In a normal year, KCI would have recorded 17.89 inches from April 1 through July 26. The 5.86 inches that’s fallen is just 33 percent of that amount.

The Weather Service also posts some unofficial tallies:

• The Downtown Airport, 6.29 inches, just 36 percent of normal.

• Lee’s Summit, 9.25 inches, 47 percent of normal.

• Olathe, 8.98 inches, 43 percent of normal.

On a map with last week’s report, a ribbon of red indicating severe drought – the fourth-highest on a five-step scale – ran through much the metro area, including virtually all of Jackson County. In this week’s report, that ribbon has widened to cover the entire metro area, and now most of Missouri is red. The overnight rain is expected to cause “only slight improvements.” Southeast Missouri and parts of western Kansas are at that fifth step, exceptional drought.

Officials say the heat is intensifying the problem. Kansas City – with 12 days so far this month with highs of 100 or more – has had an average July temperature, through Wednesday, of  85.4. If that number stays there through Tuesday, it would tie 1955 as the sixth warmest July on record, slightly worse than extremely hot and dry 1980. The five warmest are 1901, 1934, 1935, 1936 and 1954.

And it’s not just one month. This year’s period of April 1 to July 25 is the third warmest on record.

Both the state and federal governments have declared emergencies in Missouri, opening the door for help for hard-hit farmers. In a nine-county area of west-central Missouri, including Jackson County, 91 percent of the cropland is rated as having poor or very poor conditions for corn, and 96 percent of pasture land is rated that bad.

The Weather Service doesn’t see any more relief soon. It’s back to sunny skies and a high in the mid-90s today, then high 90s through late next week. It might hit 100 Sunday. And no rain.