News from the Tennessee Valley State, Local and National news
TUESDAY, JUNE 26, 2007

Weather service expects drought to last through summer

By Bayne Hughes 340-2432

As Decatur City Schools tries to get more than $117,000 in landscaping established at three schools, Mother Nature seems to have other ideas.

Holly Allen, meteorologist for the Huntsville office of the National Weather Service, said North Alabama, at 11.25 inches and 19 inches behind normal, is in the middle of the driest year on record, with about 3.62 inches of precipitation less than the second driest, 1925.

And Allen doesn't expect the drought to end before summer turns to fall.

"I don't see North Alabama getting any drought breakers in the extended forecast," Allen said.

Maintenance Director Bruce Friday said the school system is almost fighting a losing battle as it tries to keep alive the new trees, bushes, plants and grass at Banks-Caddell, Benjamin Davis and Leon Sheffield elementary schools.

So far, the school system has been lucky. It has lost only a few bushes. Newly laid sod is particularly struggling at Leon Sheffield and Banks-Caddell. The brown is beginning to compete with the green, however, on some stressed plants at the three locations.

"We bought sprinklers, but the water table is so bad that water soaks up and dissipates almost as quickly as it hits the ground," Friday said. "It's just so dry."

Since the three schools' landscaping projects are less than one year old, Friday said, they are probably under warranties. He said he would have to check the contracts to find out who is responsible for replacing the plants that don't survive.

Friday said the plants at the long-established schools seem to be doing well despite the lack of water. He said it usually takes three years for large oak trees to show the effects of a drought.

Area residents are beginning to see temperatures rise as the Fourth of July holiday approaches. Allen said the next eight to 14 days should be five to six degrees above the area's normal upper 80s, although the area could get relief Friday and Saturday.

A storm system is moving in from the north that could bring widespread showers of up to 1.5 inches. Some areas could get more, if a thunderstorm develops in their vicinity.

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