July 23, 2008

East Alabama Still in Drought

By Katie Stallcup, Opelika-Auburn News, Ala.

Jul. 23--Despite recent rainfall, East Alabama is still in a severe drought according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

"A severe drought indicates that crop or pasture losses are likely, the fire risk is very high and water shortages are common ..." said John DeBlock, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Birmingham.

But it's not all bad, he said. Since October, much of the state's drought has decreased tremendously.

"There has been some ... significant improvement in the drought, but that does not mean by any stretch of the imagination we have come out of the drought yet," DeBlock said.

Montgomery, the NWS monitoring site closest to Auburn, was five inches below normal at the last measurement, he said. But at this time last year, it was 15 inches below normal.

July is one of Lee County's wettest months. Auburn Water Resource Management Director Laura Koon is hoping for more rain this month to help with outdoor watering.

The water level at Lake Ogletree, Auburn's main water source, is slightly above where it was during last year's drought, she said.

Neither Koon nor Opelika Utilities General Manager Dan Hilyer foresee mandatory water restrictions in the immediate future.

Opelika's water reservoirs are at good levels, Hilyer said. Lake Harding is at full pool and Saugahatchee Lake is about 18 inches below full pool.

Hilyer said he hoped the afternoon rain showers would keep coming.

Long-range forecasts call for temperatures to be near normal for the next three months. The area has about a 33 percent chance of getting above-normal rainfall, DeBlock said.

"That's a good sign," he said. "It offers us some hope. But until the rain is in the bucket and in the ground, hope doesn't get us very far."

On the Web: drought.unl.edu/dm/monitor


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