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Drought may persist into next year

July 14, 1999|By ERIN HEATH

Dry weather persists throughout the Tri-State area, and it doesn't look like the summer will ease the drought, according to forecasts from the National Weather Service.

From June 1998 to May 1999, Maryland experienced the second driest 12-month period in its recorded weather history with a deficit of 12 to 15 inches of rain, according to National Weather Service forecaster Jim Travers.

"It doesn't look like it's going to get any better this summer," he said. "The only real hope we have is to get some moisture from the remnants of a tropical storm, and I don't see anything like that happening."

The drought won't end even if precipitation reaches normal levels in July and August, because evaporation rates are generally higher than normal rainfall levels during those months than in the fall and winter, Travers said.

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If above-average amounts of precipitation don't fall to make up for the current lack of rain, the drought could last well into next year, Travers said.

"We're looking at something that's a long-term deficit," Travers said.

In Hagerstown, precipitation levels started to drop off in July of 1998. More precipitation fell in the first six months of 1998 - 33.07 inches from January to June - than in the past 12 months since then. From July 1998 to June 1999, only 31.5 inches of rain fall in Hagerstown, according to information from Hagerstown weather observer Greg Keefer.

While the drought may have farmers on edge, it has paid off for those in the well replacement business.

"Business is booming. We're a lot busier now than we would be without the drought," said Frank Easterday, one of the owners of Easterday Well Drilling Inc.

Easterday said his company, which serves customers throughout the Tri-State area, normally replaces four or five wells each summer. But because of the dry spell, Easterday employees have been replacing about four or five wells every week, he said.

The Maryland Department of the Environment recently issued a statewide drought warning, advising residents to try to conserve water. Some common-sense ways to conserve water include running laundry machines and dishwashers only when loads are full and reducing outdoor water use, said department spokesman Quentin Banks.

People should examine their homes for any leaks, Banks said. A faucet leak can waste 20 gallons of water each day, while a toilet leak can result in the loss of about 200 gallons a day, he said.

There are no mandatory statewide restrictions on water use, Banks said.

Drought warnings also exist in parts of Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Officials in those states have asked residents of the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia and those in Franklin and Fulton counties, Pa., to voluntarily conserve water.

Area residents may see scattered showers next week, Travers said, but they will only provide temporary relief.

"Unfortunately, it really is not going to help the dry conditions," he said.

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