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Drought: Dramatic improvement nationwide

Local dryness an exception as moisture rallies across the country.

For the first time in six years, not a single area of the nation was in the "exceptional drought" category in the weekly update posted by the National Drought Mitigation Center.

"Exceptional" is the ranking system's most-severe category, indicating widespread agricultural losses and water shortages.

In the update, posted Thursday, better than two-thirds of the nation was free of any abnormal dryness, an elite level of atmospheric generosity.

Such levels show up in only about 80 of the 891 weekly surveys assembled by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Department of Agriculture, and the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

The nation hadn't been completely free of "exceptional drought" since the report dated March 29, 2011, the end of a 13-week run of such drought freedom.

The national dry spots this week were concentrated in Southern California; Oklahoma, and the Northeast, including the Philadelphia region.

Most of the region was in a state of "moderate drought," a notable exception being Bucks County, where the south end of the county was downgraded to "abnormally dry," the least-serious category.

Last week, most of the county was painted in "severe drought," but this week's nor'easter was generous with rain, and the county weighed in with some of the heftier totals.

The respective environmental-protection departments on both sides of the river continue to have the entire region under a drought watch.

And the situation might improve further. The latest outlook from the Climate Prediction Center sees a likelihood of above-normal precipitation for the Feb. 3-9 period.

It also favors below-normal temperatures, but, not,  it doesn't attempt to guess how much of that liquid would fall in frozen form.