Rains in the past week eased some small slices of Minnesota from drought to merely "abnormally dry" conditions, according to the weekly update of the U.S. Drought Monitor, a tracker produced by several federal agencies. The changes in status occurred along the Canadian border and in the southeast corner of the state.

But the drought map shows Minnesota drier over more areas at this point of the year than it's been in any year going back to 2000. Ninety-six percent is in some kind of drought, with a fourth of the state in "extreme" drought.

Meanwhile, with deer hunters heading into the woods for Saturday's firearms season opener, the Minnesota DNR has described fire danger across much of the state beyond the metro area as low. It's rated high from the north metro up to about Hinckley, and moderate from the south metro southeast along the Mississippi River.

Fargo, Grand Forks, La Crosse, Wis., and International Falls -- all on the state's edges -- received above-normal precipitation in October. But the heart of the state remained dry. Twin Cities precipitation was about half normal; St. Cloud's less than a third normal.

Minnesota did not receive any rain from either supeerstorm Sandy this week or from Hurricane Isaac in late August, even though both storms penetrated deep into the central United States. Isaac brought some relief to the lower Midwest, which had been plagued by drought since early summer.

Now, with November upon us, an end to the drought in Minnesota is not likely.

Extremely dry soil across the state could absorb nearly all the rain that might fall, or moisture from snowmelt, said assistant state climatologist Pete Boulay. But at Lamberton, in southwest Minnesota, it would take more than 4 inches of precipitation to bring the soil moisture content back to normal, and November is the first of the four driest months of the year across Minnesota, on average.

Soils remain largely frost-free and able to absorb moisture across Minnesota, despite a low temperature reading of 8 degrees in Babbitt on Wednesday, according to the North Central River Forecast Center, which tracks regional soil conditions.

In the Twin Cities, Friday night will bring a chance of snow, but daily high temperatures through next week are expected to approach 50 degrees.

For the entire month, the national Climate Prediction Center's long-range outlook identified a slight trend toward above-normal temperatures in the western half of the state, and strong trends toward above-normal precipitation over most of the state.

Bill McAuliffe • 612-673-7646