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Officials say Tri-State's drought over

April 22, 2003|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

The drought that has plagued the Tri-State area since 1998 is finally over, courtesy of a wet fall and winter, Washington County Drought Coordinator Don Schwartz said Monday.

While the region could have drought conditions again if there is not enough additional precipitation this summer, "I would not call it a drought at this point," Schwartz said.

The Maryland Department of the Environment has ended all drought-related advisories, he said.

"We are probably in pretty decent shape at this point," Franklin County (Pa.) Extension Director Robert Kessler said Monday.

Kessler said the Long Pine Run Reservoir, which supplies water to Chambersburg, Pa.,-area residents, was 18 feet below the spillway during parts of the drought, but is now above the spillway.

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The 2 feet of snow that fell in mid-February was particularly helpful, increasing water levels and helping groundwater recharge, Berkeley County (W.Va.) Extension Agent Mary Beth Bennett said.

But just because the drought is over doesn't mean Tri-State area residents should stop conserving water, she said.

The drought served as a good reminder that water is a limited resource and should not be wasted, Bennett said.

People need to remember that there were about four years when there was insufficient rain or snow, Schwartz said.

Some Tri-State area residents seem to think the drought would end overnight following a big storm, he said.

Asked about the status of the drought in February, Schwartz said it would be premature to say the drought was over.

But since then, precipitation has continued on a more consistent level, leaving the region in good shape and ending the drought, he said.

The area will be in even better shape this spring and summer if there is an average total rainfall of at least 1 inch per month, Schwartz said.

Hagerstown has had 13.85 inches of precipitation so far this year, according to weather observer Greg Keefer's Web site.

Ben Clopper, co-owner of Clopper's Orchards in Smithsburg, said last year the farm had to have a well drilled because area springs no longer were flowing.

This year, the streams and creeks are flowing again, he said.

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