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Alabama gets rain during governor's 'Days of Prayer' for Rain'

By Phillip Rawls
Associated Press Writer

MONTGOMERY — Most of Alabama received rain during the first days of Gov. Bob Riley's "Days of Prayer for Rain" — not enough to end the summer drought, but enough to start turning yards from brown to green.

With parts of Alabama suffering an exceptional drought, Riley issued a proclamation last week setting aside Saturday through July 7 as special days for Alabamians to pray for rain. According to the National Weather Service, most of the state received rain Saturday or Sunday, with the amount ranging from about one-quarter inch in parts of West Alabama to nearly 3 inches in some parts of East Alabama.

Some areas continued to get scattered showers Monday.

"Any amount of rain is helpful and welcome. Alabama needs a lot more, though, so Gov. Riley continues encouraging citizens to pray for rain," Jeff Emerson, Riley's communications director, said Monday.

The Alabama Forestry Commission reported the rain did dampen dead leaves that can provide fuel for forest fires, but it was not enough rain to lift its ban on outdoor burning in 40 of Alabama's 67 counties — mostly in north and central Alabama.

Dave Rickey, spokesman for the Alabama Farmers Federation, said the showers give people hope that more rain is coming.

"We are still in a huge deficit. It is going to take a lot more days like yesterday to make that up," he said.

According to the Weather Service, Birmingham has had nearly 12 inches of rain this year, but 29 inches is normal for the same period. Montgomery has had 15 inches, half its normal rainfall for the year. Mobile has had 17 inches, also about half its normal rainfall.

Huntsville — described by state climatologist John Christy as the epicenter of Alabama's drought — has had 12.5 inches this year, while the normal amount is 31 inches.

Muscle Shoals has a similar deficit, with 12 inches of rain when 30 inches would be normal.

The U.S. Drought Monitor has placed most of North Alabama and part of central Alabama under its highest classification: exceptional drought. Most of the rest of central Alabama is under the next highest category: extreme drought.

Christy said that during the last week, many parts of Alabama have received about an inch of rain, which will be enough help turn grass green. But he said, "This is no drought ender."

An inch of rain in a week would be a normal week in a typical summer, but the problem is that Alabama has had few normal weeks for rainfall since Jan. 1, he said.

Does the recent rain mean the prayers worked?

"That's something we in the science part of our lives won't be able to answer," Christy said. But he said there were prayers for rain at his church Sunday.

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

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