Drought could last through February
Mid-Hudson’s current dryness conditions range from ‘severe’ to ‘extreme’
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.