The area of Arkansas covered by the most intense drought has expanded again, but its growth rate slowed significantly from the previous week, according to Thursday’s (August 16) U.S. Drought Monitor Map.

Arkansas has seen more frequent and widespread rains as well as cooler temperatures, over the last two weeks.

In last week’s map, exceptional drought covered 53.26 percent of the state. This week it had inched to 53.6 percent, extending itself to the extreme northwest corner of Benton County. The previous week’s map showed exceptional drought increasing from 45 to 53 percent.

With the rain, “everyone is in a better mood now,” said Keith Perkins, Lonoke County Extension agent. “As my dad would say, it did not come a day too soon.”

Meanwhile, livestock producers are being advised to focus on growing winter annuals for what their herds, in hopes that fall and winter rain will return.

Drought covered nearly 78 percent of the United States, with exceptional drought covering more than 6 percent, according to Thursday’s map. The most severe areas were Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and parts of Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee.

Even with the rain, most of Arkansas’ counties have burn bans in effect. Only Arkansas, Calhoun, Columbia, Desha, Drew, Lafayette, Lincoln, Miller, Mississippi, Monroe and Woodruff counties are burn-ban free, according to the Arkansas Forestry Commission. Fire danger is extreme in most of the southwestern two-thirds of the state and high everywhere else.

For drought information, see here.