As of the latest U.S. Drought Monitor that was released on Thursday, conditions are still relatively similar from the previous week. Only a very small sliver of Central Alabama remains in an extreme drought condition, including parts of Tuscaloosa, Bibb, Jefferson, Shelby, St. Clair, and Talladega counties. Most of the northern half of Central Alabama remains in severe drought conditions, while most of the southern half is either in abnormally dry or moderate drought conditions. Good news is that over 32% of the state is no longer in any drought condition at all, as levels have returned to near normal to above normal levels.
More great news is that with the beneficial rain fall that fell during the past week, stream flows were allowed to return to near or above normal at many locations for the time being. Unfortunately, it was not enough to make a significant change in the deficits for Central Alabama.
Here are the precipitation totals for a few select cities in Central Alabama…
2017: total 8.70 in ….. avg 6.73 in ….. surplus 1.97 in
deficit/surplus since 1/1/2016: -13.25 in
2017: total 12.68 in ….. avg 6.89 in ….. surplus 5.79 in
deficit/surplus since 1/1/2016: +0.28 in
2017: total 8.89 in ….. avg 6.62 in ….. surplus 2.27 in
deficit/surplus since 1/1/2016: -14.92 in
2017: total 10.22 in ….. avg 7.55 in ….. surplus 2.67 in
deficit/surplus since 1/1/2016: -6.01 in
2017: total 9.65 in ….. avg 7.78 in ….. surplus 1.87 in
deficit/surplus since 1/1/2016: -2.55 in
2017: total 15.35 in ….. avg 6.43 in ….. surplus 8.92 in
deficit/surplus since 1/1/2016: -0.34 in
As you can see, even though we are in a surplus situation for the beginning of 2017 so far, most of Central Alabama are still trying to recover from the deficits from 2016.
Back in November, the USDA reported that many ponds and streams that were supplying cattle producers and farmers with much needed water were drying up. Water had to be hauled in from elsewhere to replace what was missing nearby. Farmers had been unable to plant winter crops due to the water deficit. Recent reports do show that conditions have improved some, allowing winter pastures to be stabilized, and cattle were shown to be in fair condition.
Another bit of good news is that the fire danger has diminished across Central Alabama, and the statewide burn ban has been rescinded. Even though that is the case, many pine trees in the area could be infested with pine beetles and could die due to the drought. The State Forester continues to urge people to use the proper safety precautions while burning outdoors.
Stream flows have increased and are currently running near to above normal at most
sites, according to the latest USGS Stream Gauge Data. Most major reservoir pool levels have remained fairly steady during the past week and remain near their normal winter levels. Voluntary and mandatory water restrictions are still in effect in some areas, but some restrictions have been lifted or eased recently. Periodic rainfall will need to occur for stream flows and reservoirs to remain at these levels or they could quickly return to below normal if prolonged dry conditions occur.
According to the latest GFS model run, we’re not going to get much help in the rainfall department over the next 16 days. Most of Central Alabama is modeled to receive between 1 to 2 inches, with parts or north Alabama receiving over 3 inches. We need much more than that to help erase the deficits left over from 2016.
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