June 14, 2008

Experts Expect Another Dry Summer

By Katie Stallcup, Opelika-Auburn News, Ala.

Jun. 14--It could be another dry summer, but so far, things are shaping up a little better than last year, weather experts say.

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor (drought.unl.edu), western Lee County is in a severe drought -- the middle of the severity ranking -- and the eastern half is in a moderate drought.

The Montgomery area -- the closest National Weather Service measurements to Lee County -- was 7.9 inches below average rainfall for the year, Holly Allen, a NWS meteorologist out of the Birmingham office, said this week.

"It's a pretty substantial chunk, but not as substantial as last year," Allen said. "The current rainfall total for Montgomery for the year is 18.73. At this time last year, it was 13.22 inches."

Much of the area's rain comes during the spring and fall months, she said. During the summer, pop-up showers can be frequent but sporadic.

"It would take more than just the scattered summertime convection we see in the afternoons" to end the drought, Allen said. "It would take a couple of tropical systems to come and bring a substantial amount of steady rainfall to the area. ..."

As far as predicting this summer's weather, chances are equal for either above or below normal rainfall, she said.

"That means making up that deficit is probably unlikely," Allen said.

The cities of Opelika and Auburn don't have immediate plans for mandatory water restrictions but are keeping an eye on things, water management officials said.

"Right now, we are expecting a dry summer," Opelika Utilities General Manager Dan Hilyer said. "... Both our reservoirs are currently full. We don't have any plans for any water conservation regulations at this time, but that's something we look at."

The City of Auburn has already asked residents to participate in voluntary water restrictions and has temporarily raised rates to encourage conservation.

Water Resource Management Director Laura Koon said the city is monitoring the situation.

The city's water reservoir level is below normal but 2 feet higher than this time last year, she said.

Koon said she thought most residents want to help conserve water.

"They experienced the drought last year, and it's fresh on their minds," she said.

Small steps, such as watering in the late evenings and early mornings can help conserve, she said.

"There's lots of little things they can do, and little things can help," she said.


-- When washing cars, do it in the yard. The excess water will help water the grass.

-- Check sprinkler systems. Make sure they're not watering a driveway or street.

-- Water lawns between the hours of 8 p.m. and 8 a.m. to prevent water loss through evaporation.

-- Turn off faucets when brushing teeth.

-- Take shorter showers.

-- When washing dishes, run only full loads. Washing dishes by hand actually uses more water than a full dishwasher.


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