Riley calling for statewide prayer for rain
By Phillip Rawls
Associated Press Writer
MONTGOMERY — With parts of Alabama suffering an exceptional drought, Gov. Bob Riley is turning to God for help and asking other Alabamians to join him in praying for rain.
Riley issued a proclamation Thursday declaring June 30 through July 7 as "Days of Prayer for Rain" and asked citizens to pray individually and in their houses of worship.
"Throughout our history, Alabamians have turned in prayer to God to humbly ask for His blessings and to hold us steady in times of difficulty. This drought is without question a time of great difficulty for our farmers and for communities across our state," Riley said in a statement.
The U.S. Drought Monitor has placed most of north Alabama under its worst classification, exceptional drought. Much of central and southeast Alabama are under the next category, extreme drought.
Southwest Alabama is classified as severe drought inland and moderate drought along the coast. According to the Drought Monitor, Alabama has more area classified as exceptional drought than any state in the nation.
The state is so dry that the Alabama Forestry Commission has barred outdoor burning for 40 of Alabama's 67 counties. That covers nearly all of Alabama north of a line running from Chatom through Montgomery to Auburn.
Cities have begun imposing water restrictions, and some lakes are so low that piers no longer extend into the water.
Since Riley's first inauguration in January 2003, the Republican governor repeatedly has encouraged Alabamians to pray for himself and the state.
He proclaimed a day earlier this year to pray for students and in 2005 to pray for the safety of Iraqis going to the polls.
But declaring a specific week to pray for rain was a first-time act for him, said Jeff Emerson, Riley's communications director.
Jerry Newby, president of the Alabama Farmers Federation, and Don Wambles, director of the Alabama Farmers Market Authority, praised Riley's proclamation.
"The farmers have been praying for rain for weeks and they covet the prayers of their fellow Alabamians," Newby said in a statement.
Anne Gaylor, former president of the Freedom from Religion Foundation in Madison, Wis., said she feels sympathy for Alabamians suffering through the drought, but prayer "is just a waste of time. A governor should have respect for the separation of church and state."
State climatologist John Christy of the University of Alabama in Huntsville said most parts of the state should have had 30 to 35 inches of rain by late June, but some parts are 20 inches below normal.
"The rains that came this past week were spotty and can't end the drought," he said.
Past calls for prayer
Past governors also have tried to use prayer to end droughts, including Democrat George C. Wallace and Republican Guy Hunt, who called for a statewide day of prayer for rain in 1988.
Christy said the current drought is being felt across Alabama.
"Appealing to any potential source is a good idea," he said.
William Stewart, a political science professor at the University of Alabama who has been observing state government since the 1950s, said Alabamians who pray regularly will likely respond to the governor's proclamation, but Riley can also expect criticism from Alabamians who feel it's inappropriate for a government official to encourage them to pray.
Riley is not alone in calling for prayers to ease drought conditions. Emerson said Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue recently urged citizens to pray for rain, and South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds proclaimed a week last year to pray for rain during a drought.
A little more rain in Falkville
? What’s happening in Falkville? The community is leading the area in rainfall this month with 2.77 inches through Wednesday. Another small Morgan County community, Pence, is No. 2 with 2.71, according to the Tennessee Valley Authority’s rainfall gauges.
TVA gauges recorded: 1.71 inches in Decatur; 1.59 in Athens; 1.01 in Town Creek; .85 in Moulton.
Falkville’s luck held with a Wednesday thunder bumper that dumped 1.13 inches. The one that dropped .72 inches on Decatur did not even spit on many areas of the city, including Burningtree. Pence was dry. Town Creek got .14; Athens, .13; Moulton, .01 in Moulton.
Weather woman says
“This is actually a very typical summer,” said Holly Allen, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Huntsville. “In the afternoon, we’ll have isolated thunderstorm developments. Because the steering winds are weak in the upper levels, the storms don’t have much motion to them. The storm develops and will essentially rain itself out without moving much. That’s the reason we have localized areas of very high precipitation.”
For the record
The thunderstorm you may have seen on radar over Courtland on Wednesday evening dropped .87, according to the National Weather Service.
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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