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Despite rainfall, drought persists

November 25, 2002|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

TRI-STATE AREA - While the rainfall over the last seven weeks has replenished shallow streams and wells, municipalities throughout the Tri-State area need above-average precipitation for the next several months to end drought conditions, farming officials and weather observers say.

"It helps, but we're nowhere near being out of the drought," Smithsburg weather observer Jim Vaughn said. "Little Beaver Creek is still bone dry, and that has never gone bone dry before."

As of Nov. 11, Washington County had received 34.11 inches of precipitation this year. That is 4 inches below normal, according to the National Weather Service's latest data.

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Berkeley County, W.Va., had received 36.8 inches, which is .1 inches below normal; Jefferson County, W.Va., had received 39.0 inches, .7 inches below normal; Morgan County had received 32.2 inches, 3.7 inches below normal; and Frederick County, Md., totaled 38.2 inches, or 2.4 inches below normal.

While officials in Washington County said large creeks and deep wells continue to run dry or close to it, officials in Pennsylvania and West Virginia said they've seen water tables go up and that requests for emergency wells have been few and far between.

Vaughn and Washington County Extension Agent Don Schwartz attribute the dry conditions to the drought that began in 1998. Although there has been considerable rainfall in the past several weeks, similar additional amounts of precipitation are needed over the next few months to have an impact on parched areas, they said.

"We're definitely heading in that direction, but we need this for quite some time yet," Schwartz said.

Schwartz said another four to six months of above-average rainfall should greatly help replenish ground water.

In October, Hagerstown received 5.52 inches of precipitation, up from the normal October precipitation of 3.37 inches, according to Hagerstown weather observer Greg Keefer's Web site.

Statewide, October rainfall averaged 6.5 inches - more than double the state's average.

Hagerstown has surpassed the precipitation normal for November. As of Friday, the area recorded 3.46 inches of precipitation. The normal for the month is 3.21.

So far, average statewide rainfall has been about an inch above normal in November.

Boonsboro Town Manager John Kendall said the town's water table has improved because of the rain, but the town still has to be cautious in water usage.

"We're certainly not out of the woods yet," Kendall said.

Hancock Town Manager Larry Logan said the town hasn't had any drought problems.

Lisa Dunn of the Jefferson County Health Department in West Virginia said the department hasn't issued any emergency well permits for more than a month, an indicator that the rain is having some affect on the drought.

Charles Town, W.Va., water plant manager Tim Stone said water levels are good and that the drought hasn't affected the Shenandoah River. He said there were have been no water restrictions in place for Charles Town.

"We've never been experiencing any real problems here," Stone said. "We've had plenty of water."

"It's been great," Waynesboro, Pa., weather observer Todd Toth said. "It's been really good here the last three months. People's wells have to be loving this."

Toth said rainfall in the last three months has been above normal in Waynesboro for the first time in 18 months.

Pennsylvania Gov. Mark Schweiker lifted the drought emergency in Franklin and Fulton counties on Nov. 7 and placed those areas on drought watch status. Franklin and Fulton counties had been under a drought emergency since the beginning of the year.

A drought watch encourages residents to be aware of the water supply and voluntarily conserve water.

Bill Bennett, Berkeley County executive director of the Farm Service Agency, said the county has been receiving about normal rainfall since May.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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