Drought in Southeastern United States as of Mid-November 2016

As of mid-November 2016, a months-long, serious drought was persisting and worsening in the southeastern United States, centered over the area where Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee meet.  The southwestern part of Virginia has also been affected, but not as severely yet as some other states.  The drought-affected area is shown below in the weekly, color-coded National Drought Monitor map from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/) for November 15, 2016.  The areas of orange, red, and brown show areas categorized, respectively, as severe, extreme, and exceptional drought.


The November 15 Drought Monitor report also included extensive comments on drought impacts that have been reported from several southeastern states  Here are some of those comments, for the region of the Ohio Valley, Southeast, and Lower Mississippi Valley:

“…In fact, most of the interior Southeast received no precipitation at all this week.  This week capped several months of dry weather.  According to the Southeast Regional Climate Center Climate Perspectives Analysis, several stations in Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina have had the driest three-month period (8/15-2016-11/14/2016) on record, and others have ranked in the top ten driest category…. The dryness in the Southeast dates back to the beginning of the year, which has dried soils and brought streamflows to record low levels….

“Drought impacts were noted by authorities in several states.
*From the Ohio State Climate Office, drought impacts in southwest Ohio include ponds drying up, cattle having to be alternatively watered, and hay being used earlier than usual. *From the Kentucky Division of Water, drought impacts are worsening and include stock ponds going dry and cattle farms having to haul in water or use city water.  Cattle farms have already started feeding hay, and have been doing so for the past 2 to 4 weeks in many areas.  Winter wheat is struggling in many areas.  Streamflows are low statewide.  USACE [U.S. Army Corps of Engineers] lakes will be reaching winter pool in a couple weeks and will return to minimum releases.  This will result in low flow conditions potentially returning to the larger rivers including the Kentucky, Green, Licking, Levisa Fork, and Cumberland Rivers.
*From the Alabama State Climatologist, several stations have had the driest 90-day period (8/15-2016-11/14/2016) on record and the longest consecutive number of days without rain, and numerous record-low flows in streams (some at zero flow) have occurred.  Tuscaloosa and Birmingham have had no precipitation for 58 days and counting.  Ponds are drying up and ranchers are being forced to buy water from municipal systems at great cost and which taxes the municipal system as well.  The soils in Alabama are poor water-holding soils which drain quickly, and the state’s immense vegetation transpires huge volumes of water quickly, so water demand is high and drought stress develops quickly.
*From the Georgia State Climatologist and National Weather Service, at least four stations in Georgia (Cedartown, Jasper, Dallas, and Montezuma) have gone 58 consecutive days without measurable rain.  Farmers in Schley County continue to report empty wells and ponds, poor vegetative health/dry pastures, and extremely scarce precipitation.  These farmers report they have been feeding hay to their cattle throughout the entire summer. *From the South Carolina State Climatologist, streamflows and lake levels continue to decline in the Upstate.  Several stations have had the driest 90-day period (8/15-2016-11/14/2016) on record.  The USDA reports that cattle producers have been selling off cows and began feeding hay mid-summer in the Upstate, and producers are reporting that they are prevented from planting winter forage due to lack of rain.
*In a November 10 announcement, the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) activated the Tennessee Emergency Management Plan (TEMP) in response to the drought and wildfire impacts, with a Level 3 – State of Emergency in place for Tennessee.  The announcement included a statement that ‘Approximately 302 of Tennessee’s 480 water systems are experiencing some level of drought impact, ranging from moderate to exceptional.  At least three counties have requested water for residents whose wells have run completely dry of water.’
*In western North Carolina, reports from the public indicate that cattle producers in Watauga and Avery Counties have been feeding their winter stores of hay for over a month.  Streams, creeks, and branches have dried up, producers are having major issues with watering livestock, peoples’ wells have dried up, and local towns are implementing Stage 2 water restrictions.”

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