Drought conditions continued to improve this week thanks to timely rains that have fallen over the past couple of weeks.
According to the latest Drought Monitor released Thursday by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the amount of severe and extreme drought declined for the second week in a row.
Only 5.3% of the state is in extreme drought, down from nearly 12% last week and more than 22% two weeks ago. Areas in severe drought dropped 47.7%, down from 61.8% last week and 75.6% two weeks ago.
The overall amount of drought was unchanged, with 93.6% of the state in at least a moderate drought, the same as last week.
Most areas of the state have seen several inches of rain over the past two weeks, which is more than they had seen in months. Areas of northeast Nebraska that are in extreme drought got more than an inch of rain from thunderstorms Wednesday, and storms brought severe storms to areas of the state on Thursday.
A severe thunderstorm watch was issued Thursday afternoon that covered nearly four dozen counties in central and eastern Nebraska, including Lancaster County.
An initial round of storms packing strong straight-line winds on Thursday caused damage from south-central Nebraska to northeast Nebraska.
In Antelope County, a fertilizer business in Oakdale lost part of its roof due to straight-line winds and several other buildings in the area were damaged, according to Oakdale Fire Chief Matt Wilkinson.
In other areas, there were reports of trees down, roofs damaged and power poles snapped.
A second round of storms moving across southern parts of the state later Thursday afternoon was blamed for semis overturned on Interstate 80. The storms approaching the Lincoln area just before 6 p.m. prompted a severe thunderstorm warning for northwestern Lancaster County.
The storms will bring somewhat cooler weather to the area. Lincoln had a high in the 90s Thursday for the third time in three days. But the extended forecast calls for highs in the upper 70s and low 80s for the next several days.
Also on Tuesday afternoon, a series of weak tornadoes blew across rural parts of northwestern Kansas and a county in southwestern Nebraska along the Kansas line, according to the National Weather Service.