Tonawanda News

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July 13, 2012

Niagara, portions of Erie enter drought conditions

Tonawanda News — Western New York has joined over half of the continental United States currently experiencing a drought as of Thursday morning. The U.S. Drought Service said the drought covers Niagara County and most of Erie County. 

“This has been coming for a while,” Mike Pujaklo, of the National Weather Service, said. “We are currently close to five inches below average rainfall for up to this time in the year.” 

Gary Rende, the assistant division head for water resources in the Town of Tonawanda, said he advises residents to only water their lawns when needed.

“That’s really the biggest thing for residents to do when an assessment like this is made,” Rende said. 

Dr. Arthur T. Gaetano, director of the Northeast Regional Climate Center at Cornell University, said that the U.S. Drought Service evaluates a number of different things — such as stream flow, meteorological data, and agricultural impacts — to make its determination. 

The service makes updates to regional classifications every week. Classifications include abnormally dry and moderate, severe, extreme, and exceptional drought. Western New York is currently classified as moderate drought, with the rest of New York experiencing abnormally dry conditions. 

“Moderate droughts probably happen in New York one out of every five years,” Gaetano said. “So they aren’t all that uncommon, but it is definitely not a yearly thing.”

Gaetano said that having a widespread drought across the country, such as what is happening now, is a lot more uncommon — occurring about once a decade. States such as Georgia, Arkansas, Illinois, and the Rocky Mountain states are experiencing extreme and exceptional droughts that are leading to wildfires and extensive crop failures. 

“It’s causing 18 of the primary corn growing states to be in very poor conditions,” David Thomas, of the National Weather Service, said. “And about half of the pastures in the country are also in the same shape.” 

Thomas said that the Southeast as well as Western New York will be experiencing a small amount of rain this weekend. 

“It will be anywhere from one-fourth of an inch to a half of rain,” Thomas said. “It will help, but it won’t be a drought buster.” 

Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000, ext. 4150.

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