East Walker, majority of Jefferson County declared drought-free

By ED HOWELL
Posted 6/2/17

Daily Mountain Eagle

East Walker and almost all of Jefferson County now appear to be drought-free, while the moderate drought in north Tuscaloosa County has improved to an abnormally dry area.

The U.S. Drought Monitor on Thursday released data …

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East Walker, majority of Jefferson County declared drought-free

Posted

Daily Mountain Eagle

East Walker and almost all of Jefferson County now appear to be drought-free, while the moderate drought in north Tuscaloosa County has improved to an abnormally dry area.

The U.S. Drought Monitor on Thursday released data and maps showing conditions for the week up through Tuesday, indicating recent rains continue to help the dry conditions. It is the first time any part of Walker County has had any drought-free conditions in some time, as most of the county was in a moderate drought even a year ago.

According to a map released by the U.S. Drought Monitor Thursday, an area along the eastern border of the county is drought-free, stretching from Smith Lake south to apparently include Sipsey, Dora and Sumiton.

West of that area, Walker County is abnormally dry, the lowest level of drought, except for a small area in the southwest corner along the border that is in moderate drought. That area along the border hasn’t changed since last week, when it was part of a larger moderate drought area mostly in southeast Fayette County and northern Tuscaloosa County.

That moderate drought area has disappeared in Tuscaloosa County, leaving an abnormally dry area over the northern area of that county which has also shrunk. The bottom half of that county is now drought-free, whereas two-thirds of the county last week was in some form of drought.

Fayette County’s moderate drought area has also shrunk, leaving more of the southern border area as abnormally dry.

Moderate drought conditions in the northwest and southeast corners of the state were erased this week, leaving abnormal dry conditions instead.

This week, 88 percent of Alabama was listed as being drought-free, up from 78 percent the week before. The area that was in moderate drought has shrunk from 1.76 percent to .33 percent, while the area that was at least in abnormally dry conditions or worse shrunk from 22 percent to 12 percent.

Only 7,128 people in the state were in drought conditions this week, down from 107,000 the week before. In the May 11 report, 1.4 million Alabamians were listed as being in a drought-affected area.

In November, most of the state was in at least extreme drought conditions, the second worst stage. At the start of the calendar year 2017, almost 90 percent of the state was in at least severe drought, half of it had reached at least extreme drought, and 19 percent had been in the worst stage, exceptional drought.

The National Weather Service (NWS) in Birmingham noted the update, stating, “Periodic rainfall occurred during the past several days as a series of weak fronts, upper air disturbances and a moist unstable air mass combined to produce an unsettled weather pattern across the area. Rainfall totals across Central Alabama averaged an inch or less in most places, but locally and significantly higher totals occurred in areas where heavier downpours occurred in scattered thunderstorms.

“This helped further ease the drought conditions that have plagued the area during the past several months, with most stream flows in the area currently near or above normal for the time of year.”

For the calendar year up through May 31, the agency noted rainfall totals were above averages at locations across the state, including 3.69 inches above the 23.97-inch average for the period through May 31. Montgomery was 10.48 inches above normal, while Troy was 9.67 inches above normal. Tuscaloosa was 2.59 inches above its normal average of 23.4 inches.

The NWS said soil moisture values are now in general above normal across the state, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture said statewide crops are in good shape. Reservoir pool levels are near normal summer Full pool levels and have remained steady.

“The fire danger risk has changed little across Central Alabama with Keetch-Byram Drought Indices (KBDI) remaining fairly constant,” the agency reported. “Values are currently ranging from 100 to 400 with isolated values above 400. Values above 500 indicate a severe fire danger.” 

Central Alabama is expected to have scattered showers and thunderstorms the next few days, with normal or higher precipitation levels expected for June. Drought conditions are expected to continue improving in the state through August, according to the NWS.