Rain improved drought conditions

By STEVEN CALHOUN/Staff Writer

Recent rainfall improved drought categorization by one level in much of Alabama, according to the National Drought Mitigation Center.

However, this still leaves approximately 70 percent of Alabama in an extreme drought, with about 20 percent still at the highest level: exceptional drought.

At press time, Chilton County was categorized under D3 extreme drought conditions, with a sliver in the East of the county under D4.

The short-term effects of the drought have already been seen in wildfires and the “no burn order” that was only recently lifted, but the long-term effects have yet to come into the picture.

Farmers are concerned their crops for next year could be affected if current conditions continue. Livestock are already taking a hit due to rising hay prices and lack of availability.

In a November interview with the Advertiser, Jim Pitts of the Chilton Research and Extension Center said many of the peach trees were already drying up.

“The only thing we can do at the moment is wait it out and hope the drought will break soon,” Pitts said.

The drought might be on its way to breaking. According to the National Weather Service’s climate report from the Shelby County Airport, the area has had 1.23 inches of rainfall since Dec. 1.

Service hydrologist Roger Neil of the NWS in Birmingham said average rainfall for this area at this time of year is about an inch. The recent rainfall amount, if sustained each week, could be enough.

Alternatively, an extremely heavy rainfall event of four to six inches covering a large area could help drought conditions improve more quickly. According to Neil, it is hard to know what level of rain is necessary to lift the state out of a drought.

“No two droughts are the same,” Neil said. “What’s a little more unusual about this drought is that it’s usually a long term, cumulative event that gets us … This year we were not really in a severe drought situation until late summer or fall when we went 60 days consecutively without significant rainfall. It happened so quickly.”

The forecast predicts high chances of rain starting Dec. 12.

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