News from the Tennessee Valley State, Local and National news
FRIDAY, JUNE 15, 2007
HOME | NEWS | ARCHIVES | OBITUARIES | WEATHER

N. Alabama's extreme drought spreading

By Jay Reeves
Associated Press Writer

BIRMINGHAM — The choking dryness that’s killing crops and turning streams into dusty trails across the Southeast is getting worse, with the government saying Thursday the nation’s most extreme drought has expanded from Alabama into three neighboring states.

Previously contained in the northern half of Alabama, the area of most severe drought has grown like a brown ink blot to extend from eastern Mississippi across Alabama into southeastern Tennessee and northwestern Georgia.

Government meteorologists classify conditions in the region — roughly shaped like an oval on maps — as being worse even than those in southern Florida, where Lake Okeechobee is drying up, and the perennially dry West.

Overall, the entire Southeast is in at least a moderate drought, save for the southern tips of Florida and Louisiana, the northern reaches of North Carolina and Virginia and parts of Arkansas and West Virginia.

“Seeing the effects this early in the year shows we are in a really unprecedented situation,” said John Christy, a professor at The University of Alabama in Huntsville and the state climatologist for Alabama.

The arid conditions mean the atmosphere will heat up more than normal as summer approaches, making triple-digit temperatures more common across the region, he said.

“Just based on the odds now you’d have to say we’d continue to be dry as the summer sun does its work. People are going to start seeing more 100-degree temperatures,” said Christy.

Agriculture

The combined effects on agriculture could be devastating.

In Alabama — where conditions are the worst and about 38 percent of the state is experiencing an exceptional drought — GOP Sens. Richard Shelby and Jeff Sessions have asked the Department of Agriculture to declare the state’s northern tier of counties a disaster area.

The U.S. Drought Monitor said 78 percent of Alabama’s pastures are in poor or very poor condition, along with 48 percent of peanuts and 68 percent of the cotton crop.

Conditions are better in states, including Georgia, where rainfall from tropical storm Barry doused fields long enough that cotton farmers who delayed planting because of the dry weather finally were able to get seeds in the ground.

“Things look a lot better than they did, but our crop is certainly going to be behind because of the late plantings,” said Richey Seaton, executive director of the Georgia Cotton Commission.

Many parts of the South have rainfall deficits for the year in double digits, and areas with the most extreme conditions are 20 inches or more below normal.

Dozens of water systems are urging voluntary conservation, and some have imposed bans on watering lawns and car washing.

Long-term forecasts show little chance for substantial rain unless a tropical system moves north across the Gulf of Mexico to displace a high pressure system that is blocking moisture.

“Rainfall patterns by their nature are variable. This is just where (the drought) happens to be this time,” said Christy.

———

On the Net:

U.S. Drought Monitor, www.drought.unl.edu/dm/monitor.html

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Save $84.50 a year off our newsstand price:
Subscribe today for only 38 cents a day!

Leave feedback
on this or
another
story.

Email This Page



  www.decaturdaily.com