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A rainy day in Alabama
Humberto expected
to give state soaking

By Jay Reeves
Associated Press Writer

BIRMINGHAM — Forecasters say the remnants of Hurricane Humberto should bring Alabama what it has needed for months: a dreary day with a few inches of rain and only a slim chance of dangerous storms.

"We're expecting just a complete washout for Friday," said Angel Montanez of the National Weather Service office at Calera.

After months of bone-parching drought and heat, Humberto is predicted to dump as much as 3 inches of rain on withered fields and dried-up streams after it moves into the state.

The NWS office in Huntsville predicts that areas of North Alabama could receive 1 to 3 inches of rain, especially west of Interstate 65. Currently, the Huntsville-Decatur area is about 36 inches below normal for the year.

Heavy rains that swept across parts of the state Thursday evening gave a preview of what was to come, but the bulk of the rain was expected to fall Friday, Scott Unger of the NWS Birmingham office said Thursday evening.

Flooding shouldn't be a problem because the ground is so dry from the drought, the weather service said.

The storm will likely make for muddy fields and wet fans at high school football games. But it could also save some crops after months of what experts call a record drought.

"For the rain to fall and then move on out so we could get some drying would help us the most, and that's what I understand it's supposed to do," said Buddy Adamson, an expert in row crops with the Alabama Farmers Federation. "You don't want it to just stay wet because that promotes disease."

Humberto, the first hurricane to hit the United States in two years, made landfall early Thursday near Beaumont, Texas, bringing heavy rains and 80 mph winds. It came ashore as a Category 1 hurricane but quickly weakened to a tropical storm.

By 6 p.m. Friday, the weather service expects Humberto to be a tropical depression centered over northern Hale County with winds around 22 mph — not much worse than a breezy fall day. Forecasters say thunderstorms are possible, but Saturday is supposed to be partly cloudy with highs in the mid-80s.

"There probably won't even be much lightning," said Montanez.

Central Alabama has been gripped by an exceptionally bad drought since early summer, with Birmingham's rainfall more than 20 inches below normal and Montgomery about 2 feet below normal. In Southeast Alabama, Troy has a precipitation deficit of 27 inches for the year.

Streams and lakes are drying up statewide, but it's unclear whether the storm will deposit enough rain to make a difference since many large reservoirs are at record-low levels for this time of year.

Alabama Power Co. this week said it would lower water levels on Jordan, Lay and Mitchell lakes by another 2 feet beginning Monday, and Lake Martin already is about 2 feet below its normal winter level, leaving exposed banks and empty coves ringed by dry boat docks.

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

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