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Signs of drought at a dried-up lake at Fish Pond off Alabama 20 in Lawrence County.
Daily photo by Jonathan Palmer
Signs of drought at a dried-up lake at Fish Pond off Alabama 20 in Lawrence County.

More drought in ’08?
Forecasts show Alabama’s dry spell could last through next year

MONTGOMERY (AP) — This year will go down as the year of the drought in Alabama. Forecasters say 2008 might, also.

National Weather Service officials said the exceptional drought that has parched the state this summer could continue well into next year, with below-average rainfall meaning months more of brown crops, dead grass and exposed lake bottoms.

The NWS’s Climate Prediction Center said Tuesday there is a good chance for below-normal rainfall or other precipitation for all of Alabama all the way through May.

“It just means a continuation of the current drought we’re in,” said Kevin Pence, science and operations officer at the National Weather Service office in Calera. “This is not a very favorable long-term outlook at all.”

The Climate Prediction Center, based in Camp Springs, Md., expects a La Nina event — signaled by cooler-than-normal surface water in the eastern Pacific near the equator — to start affecting weather in the United States by November.

Generally when La Nina appears, the Southeast tends to get less-than-normal rainfall, in part because high pressure diverts storms farther north, said Douglas Le Comte, a drought specialist with the prediction center.

“It looks like La Nina is imminent and it should continue through the winter. It does increase the odds for below-normal rainfall for the southern United States, including Alabama,” he said.

On the brighter side, Le Comte said, the center does predict at least temporary improvement in drought conditions from now through November.

“We hope we’re going to see increased tropical moisture bringing at least some relief to the area in the next couple months or so,” he said. “Over the shorter term, it looks fairly good for more frequent thunderstorms across Alabama and Georgia, with somewhat lower temperatures.”

For September through November, the center expects above-normal rainfall for about the southern third of Alabama, with equal chances for higher, lower or normal rainfall for the rest of the state.

Despite recent rains, most of Alabama still is gripped by an exceptional drought. Alabama Power Co. says water levels at its six storage reservoirs — Weiss Lake, Neely Henry Lake, Logan Martin Lake, Lake Harris, Lake Martin and Smith Lake — are expected to continue to fall, some to record-low levels.

Some boat launches already are unusable, and utility spokesman Michael Sznajderman said people with boats on those lakes may want to consider whether to remove them.

State climatologist John Christy, a professor at The University of Alabama in Huntsville, said Alabama has had unusually dry weather since January 2005 and that moisture in the soil has been depleted to a depth of as much as 20 feet in many areas.

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

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