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Officials say dry weather is likely for this summer

June 21, 2002|by Liz Boch

lizb@herald-mail.com

It's the first day of summer, and weather officials predict the drought is likely to continue throughout the season despite recent thunderstorms and a "normal" status for most of the Tri-State area.

A "normal" status indicates average rainfall and temperatures, National Weather Service meteorologist Dewey Walston said.

Despite that, residents are encouraged to continue conserving water, he said.

"Let the rain water your lawn, and don't wash your car too often," Walston said.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said spring brought "near-to-above average rainfall," helping to ease drought conditions in Western Maryland and the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia.

According to both the weather service and NOAA, the area needs above average rainfall, and summer is not expected to bring enough precipitation to end the drought.

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"It will take several months to fix the drought," Walston said. "The odds for summer don't favor average, much less above average rainfall, so it's probably going to continue."

Jeff Semler, an educator at the Maryland Cooperative Extension office, agreed.

"We are still about an inch behind average rainfall," he said. "I'd like to get an inch a week over the summer, but hey, why not then ask for everything?"

According to Hagerstown weather observer Greg Keefer's Web site, precipitation was below normal in Hagerstown in April and May, as well as for 2001.

Average annual precipitation in Hagerstown is just under 38 inches. But in 2001, about 26.5 inches of precipitation fell, according to Keefer's records. In April, about 2.7 inches of precipitation fell, whereas the average is almost 3.2 inches. May was closer to normal in Hagerstown. Average precipitation for the month is almost 3.9 inches, and almost 3.8 inches of rain fell, according to Keefer's records.

Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening declared a drought emergency April 5.

Semler said scattered storms make it seem like the drought is ending, but more rain is needed.

"It looks like we're getting storms but they really have been going to the north and south," he said. "Storms have been sporadic throughout the county."

Franklin and Fulton counties in Pennsylvania are drier than the Eastern Panhandle and Washington County because rainfall is scattered, Semler said.

Franklin County is still under drought emergency status.

Although the topsoil received adequate moisture, subsoil moisture is deficient. As a result, Semler said, residents living outside the public water system have less well water, and crops like corn, soybeans, tree fruits and hay are diminished.

Washington County gets its water supply from the Potomac River, which flows downstream from near Garrett County.

"Since it flows down to us, it helps more if West Virginia gets rain as opposed to us," Semler said.

Dr. Richard Zimmerman, extension specialist at the West Virginia Extension Service, said although topsoil moisture is healthy, potable water from reservoirs and aqueducts is critically low.

"We get our groundwater supply from melting snow cover, and with such mild winters and a dry summer, it's possible we will go back to a drought emergency," Zimmerman said.

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