Local News

Drought Conditions Raising Concerns in Western, Central Kentucky

Thanks to Stu Johnson, Kentucky Public Radio

Kentucky farmers are concerned about an early drought that’s affecting western and central sections of the state.

A level one drought has been declared for 24 counties, meaning conditions have developed that affect soil moisture and vegetative health.

University of Kentucky Agricultural Meteorologist Tom Priddy says the drought could quickly settle into other areas of the state.

“Now everything’s still pretty green, but it won’t take long, without getting a good shot of rain. And you know we’d like to have an inch of rain a week for agriculture. And we’re not getting that. Even in the Bluegrass area we’re not getting that,” Priddy said.

Priddy says the dry conditions starting to take a toll on some western Kentucky corn crops.

The outlook for the next ten days shows warm temperatures and only a slight chance of rain for much of the commonwealth.

(Drought monitor map courtesy of National Drought Mitigation Center)

Local News

Holiday Rains Soak Drought-Stricken Region

The cold, steady rain that fell over the Louisville area on Thanksgiving Day may have put a damper on some holiday celebrations, but the National Weather Service says it went a long way toward easing the region’s drought conditions.

“We had several locations that got anywhere between two and three inches of rain just in that 24 hour period alone, then a nice switchover to snow late in the evening, ” said Ryan Sharp, a meteorologist at the agency’s Louisville office.

Sharp says rainfall this year is still several inches below normal.

There’s another chance of rain starting Monday with high temperatures in the 50s.

Local News

Storms Did Little To Relieve Drought

Last week’s storms did not provide much relief from a drought affecting much of west and north-central Kentucky.

Many counties have not had much rainfall this season. In Louisville, precipitation levels are more than four inches below average for September and October. National Weather Service meteorologist Brian Schoettmer says storms like the ones that swept through the area Tuesday are not beneficial during droughts.

“To break the drought, we’re not looking for big rainfalls that come all at once,” he says. “We’re looking for steady, soaking rains that have time to actually soak into the ground. Whereas, if you get a hard rain like we had with the line of storms this past week, some of that runs off real quick because it falls so fast.”

Schoettmer says the La Niña system will likely make for a warm and wet winter in Louisville and much of Kentucky and relieve the drought.

Local News

Water Shortage Hits Clark And Floyd Counties

The hot, dry summer has led to a water shortage in southern Indiana, and a conservation advisory is in effect in two nearby counties.

The Indiana American Water Company is asking Clark and Floyd county residents to voluntarily cut back on water usage.   Company spokesperson Joe Loughmiller says that may be difficult, since yards and plants are dying. But, he says if everyone waits to water plants or wash their cars, then more drastic measures won’t be necessary.

“There’s always a possibility we could do mandatory conservation or restrictions,” he says. “At this point, we’re hoping that doesn’t have to happen and if we get some people out there, just basically turning off their sprinklers and their irrigation, that’ll take care of the situation for now.”

Loughmiller says a few inches of rain would be enough to replenish water supplies and end the advisory. Much of Kentucky is also experiencing dry weather. A level one drought has been declared in Jefferson and many neighboring counties.

Local News

Unusually High Rainfall Totals Could Prevent Drought

For the month of June, the Louisville-area has tallied almost three times more rain than average.

National Weather Service meteorologist Don Kirkpatrick says so far this month, Louisville has received more than seven-and-a-half inches of rain, well above the average of two-point-seven inches.

Kirkpatrick says the extra precipitation is helpful.

“It bodes well for us to be getting a lot of rainfall in the spring and early summer because as we go into the summer and into the fall each month gets progressively drier,” he says.

But, Kirkpatrick says, the extra rain doesn’t completely safeguard the area from drought later this year.

Environment Local News

Southeast U.S. Already Feeling Climate Change

Researchers with the U.S. Global Change Research Program say the country is already feeling the impacts of climate change.  In the southeast, they found that average annual temperatures decreased between 1901 and 1970. But since then temperatures have increased nearly two degrees Fahrenheit.  And the number of very hot days is expected to increase more rapidly than average temperatures.  Louisville Climate Action Network director Sarah Lynn Cunningham says that local research shows Louisville could stave off some of the more dire projections for the region, such as severe drought.

“To a degree we’re going to be buffered from some of the impacts of climate change for a longer period of time,” says Cunningham.

Access to water from the Ohio River could help.  But Cunningham says increasing drought and more frequent severe weather could still take a toll on crops.

On the web:

Environment Local News

Ice Storm Replenished Water Supply

The recent ice storm may have helped replenish some of Kentucky’s low water supply after two years of drought.  Soils have received a much needed dose of moisture, reservoir and river levels are up, and ground water is more plentiful.  But state climatologist Stuart Foster says droughts are not going to be an anomaly.

“There is some research in the area of climatology that would suggest we have, in the last few years, entered a phase where we may be more prone to frequent periods of drought,” says Foster.

Foster says global warming is part of the reason behind that frequency.  Foster also says it’s too soon to tell whether the precipitation will help farmers entering the growing season.  If spring is dry, summer could bring more dry spells.

Local News

Moderate Drought Coming for Louisville, Lexington Areas

Louisville is on the verge of a moderate drought. Keys Arnold with the University of Kentucky’s Agricultural Weather Center says the area is already in a mild drought.

“Rainwise, it’s been incredibly dry. We’ve actually had a significantly drier year than last year, when at this time we were approaching extreme drought,” says Arnold. “The reason the conditions aren’t as bad this year is that we started off with a wet spring.”

Arnold says 2008 has been Louisville third driest summer on record… it’s the 12th driest in central Kentucky. Rainfall totals for the year are nearly five inches below normal.

This year’s drought hasn’t affected crops as dramatically as last year, because it’s coming at harvest-time, instead of the beginning of growing season.

Local News

Water Could Become the New Oil, says UK Researcher

Louisville needs to keep moving forward when it comes to new innovations in water storage and treatment. That’s according to a University of Kentucky researcher who says water is likely to become a commodity – like oil – in the future.

Louisville doesn’t struggle with drought as many Kentucky cities do because it’s located on the Ohio River. But Dr. Lindell Ormsby with the Kentucky Water Resources Research Institute predicts it won’t always be that way.

“When we look into this century, it’s probably going to be water that becomes the big issue relative to negotiating, trying to get water, potential wars over water, water’s going to be the big issue I think in this century, where energy has been in the prevailing century,” says Ormsby.

Water supplies and related issues were the topic of today’s State of Affairs program on WFPL.