Monitor: Most of North Alabama out of 2-yr drought

Published 8:21 pm Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The U.S. Drought Monitor says most of north Alabama has broken out of a drought that lasted more than two years and a rain surplus is now hitting the area. Improved drought conditions are expected in central Alabama as well, thanks to recent rains.

National Weather Service meteorologist Chelly Amin in Huntsville said a draft of the weekly report to be released Thursday shows that in north Alabama, only DeKalb County in northeast corner of the state will remain in the Drought Monitor’s listings.

DeKalb remains abnormally dry, but part of the county bordering Georgia had been classified last week as severe drought.

“Thursday will be the last day we will release a weekly drought status report from this office,” Amin said. “We’re getting so much rain now that we’re looking at starting to release a rainfall surplus report once or twice a month instead.”

At the National Weather Service in Birmingham, hydrologist Roger McNeil said he expects the region to show improvement when the new drought map comes out Thursday because most towns have received 3 to 6 inches of rain in the last few days.

Last week, most of central Alabama was classified as abnormally dry or moderate drought.

Much of the southern third of Alabama has not been under drought conditions in recent weeks.

In north Alabama, nearly 8 inches of rain have been reported so far this month at the Northwest Alabama Regional Airport in Muscle Shoals. That’s more than was recorded in September, October and November combined.

Some farm ponds around the Shoals that have been dry for more than a year are now overflowing.

The heavy rain has raised the level of the Tennessee River, prompting the Tennessee Valley Authority to open the floodgates at Wilson Dam for the first time since January 2006.

TVA spokesman Gil Francis said the increased river flow has allowed the utility to boost electricity production at its hydroelectric dams.

Francis said with rain expected the rest of the week and more possible next week, TVA cannot save the extra water in its reservoirs and use it for electricity production.

The rain is forecast to subside Sunday just before another blast of cold air arrives in the Tennessee Valley.