Chilton County under drought warning

Published 10:00 pm Tuesday, June 14, 2011

To say the state of Alabama is dry at this point in the summer would be an understatement. Gov. Robert Bentley signed an Emergency Drought Condition Declaration last week prohibiting all outdoor burning.

While some parts of the state are in what is labeled an extreme drought, Chilton County has managed to stay in the moderate to severe range according to the National Weather Service.

How much longer before Chilton County reaches the extreme, however, remains to be seen.

“The dry areas of the state are starting to expand,” said NWS meteorologist Gary Goggins. “[Chilton County] will continue the hot and dry pattern the rest of this week. The pattern will continue June 15 through June 23.”

Along with miserably hot temperatures, the drought brings on extra concern for farmers. Once crops begin to wither, so do livelihoods.

“It’s been a bad drought,” said Gary Gray, Regional Horticulture Extension Agent. “And early for it to be so dry. We need more rain.”

For farmers in Chilton County, however, the drought may not be as bad. Gray said dry conditions can actually help peach trees.

“Dry conditions can help rid the trees of diseases,” he said. “And it can make the fruit sweeter. But excessive dryness can damage them.”

Gray said the key to keeping crops and especially peach trees safe is through irrigation.

“If you have irrigation, it helps a grower increase the size of a peach,” he said. “Farmers will get a premium price right now for a large peach.”

He also attributed the soil of Chilton County to its crops succeeding.

“Thankfully we’re not as sandy as the East and Southeast,” he said. “We don’t suffer as bad. We have some clay in our soil and it holds moisture.”

While it seems like there is no end in sight for the drought, both Gray and Goggins have hope. La Nina took place this past year, usually meaning a drier winter and wetter summer. The general thought is that rain may come later in the summer.

“We’re hoping we can get the rain to keep cropping up,” said Gray. “We’re still hopeful we can pull out.”

“In the near term, we’ll stay hot and dry,” said Goggins. “But eventually [rain chances] should move to normal and then above normal. Hopefully by July and August we’ll see improvements.”