Drought could last through Fe­bru­ary

Mid-Hud­son’s cur­rent dry­ness con­di­tions range from ‘se­vere’ to ‘ex­treme’

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - As­so­ci­ated Press and Free­man staff

The long-run­ning drought in much of the North­east­ern United States is ex­pected to per­sist well into the win­ter.

The U.S. Drought Mon­i­tor map re­leased Thurs­day shows dry con­di­tions con­tin­u­ing through Fe­bru­ary through­out re­gion.

The map shows parts of the Mid-Hud­son Val­ley in “se­vere drought” con­di­tions and parts — in­clud­ing about half of Ul­ster and Orange coun­ties and most of Dutchess County — suf­fer­ing from “ex­treme drought.” The worst level, just above ex­treme, is “ex­cep­tional drought.”

The drought is the worst in more than a decade. It has been dev­as­tat­ing to farm­ers and re­sulted in wa­ter re­stric­tions in many places. It has dried up drink­ing wells and dropped lake


The city of Kingston re­cently is­sued a “drought warn­ing,” which calls for vol­un­tary wa­ter con­ser­va­tion, be­cause its Cooper Lake reser­voir in the town of Wood­stock had fallen to 65 per­cent of ca­pac­ity.

New York City’s Ashokan Reser­voir in Ul­ster County also is low, but the city has not is­sued called for any re­duc­tion of wa­ter use by cus­tomers.

Drought ex­pert Dave Miskus said it will be dif­fi­cult for the North­east to make up the cur­rent 8- to 12-inch deficit in rain through­out the win­ter. There have been some good storms lately, but the win­ter pre­cip­i­ta­tion fore­cast

re­mains un­clear, said Miskus, who works for the Na­tional Oceanic and At­mo­spheric Ad­min­is­tra­tion.

In the short-term, sev­eral storms fore­cast for the end of the month could im­prove con­di­tions along the East Coast. Far­ther west, re­cent rains and above av­er­age win­ter pre­cip­i­ta­tion ex­pected for the Great Lakes re­gion and Ohio Val­ley should spell relief for drought-hit sec­tions of west­ern Penn­syl­va­nia and New York.

The sim­ple so­lu­tion is more rain. But Miskus and other weather ex­perts hope there will be a pro­longed stretch of pre­cip­i­ta­tion rather than sev­eral big storms. That way, the wa­ter can soak into the soil and recharge aquifers rather than run­ning off.

A sec­ond fac­tor will be snow. While it re­mains un­clear

how much snow the North­east will get, New Hamp­shire’s cli­ma­tol­o­gist, Mary Lem­cke-Stam­pone, said a snow­pack of sev­eral feet in the spring would give the re­gion a head start as it warms up.

But not all snow is equal. Wet snow, which falls in warmer con­di­tions, would be prefer­able to dry flakes that fall in frigid con­di­tions. Wet snow con­tains more pre­cip­i­ta­tion. It also would help if there aren’t heavy rains in the spring that would wash away all that snow in­stead of al­low­ing it to slowly seep into the ground.

The drought could hurt ski re­sorts, who need suf­fi­cient wa­ter for snow­mak­ing. Reser­voirs for stor­ing wa­ter are full now, but they will need more pre­cip­i­ta­tion through­out the win­ter.


Cooper Lake in Wood­stock, the city of Kingston’s main reser­voir, is shown on Mon­day.

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