The Office of the State Climatologist and the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet, in coordination with the Kentucky Drought Mitigation Team (KDMT), are issuing a Level I drought declaration for counties in six drought management areas (DMAs) in central and eastern Kentucky. These new counties bring the total to 69 counties in 11 DMAs under a Level 1 declaration.
Counties within the new Level I drought declaration areas:
Barren River DMA: Allen
Bluegrass DMA: Bourbon, Clark, Fayette, Jessamine, Powell
Buffalo Trace DMA: Bracken, Mason, Robertson
Gateway DMA: Bath, Menifee, Montgomery
Kentucky River DMA: Wolfe
Lincoln Trail DMA: LaRue, Marion, Nelson, Washington
Counties already within the Level I drought declaration areas:
Barren River DMA: Butler, Logan, Simpson
Bluegrass DMA: Anderson, Franklin, Harrison, Nicholas, Scott, Woodford
Green River DMA: Daviess, Hancock, Henderson, McLean, Ohio, Union, Webster
KIPDA DMA: Bullitt, Henry, Jefferson, Oldham, Shelby, Spencer, Trimble
Lincoln Trail DMA: Breckinridge, Grayson, Hardin, Meade
Northern Kentucky DMA: Boone, Campbell, Carroll, Gallatin, Grant, Kenton, Owen, Pendleton
Purchase DMA: Ballard, Calloway, Carlisle, Fulton, Graves, Hickman, Marshall, McCracken
Pennyrile DMA: Caldwell, Christian, Crittenden, Hopkins, Livingston, Lyon, Muhlenberg, Todd, Trigg
Counties that are considered abnormally dry but not in the Level I drought declaration:
Barren River DMA: Edmonson, Hart, Warren
Bluegrass DMA: Boyle, Estill, Garrard, Lincoln, Madison, Mercer
Buffalo Trace DMA: Fleming, Lewis
Gateway DMA: Morgan, Rowan
Kentucky River DMA: Breathitt, Lee
Lake Cumberland DMA: Green, Taylor
A Level I drought indicates moderate drought conditions have developed primarily affecting soil moisture and vegetative health. Serious impacts to agricultural water needs, an increased wildfire risk, water supply shortages with systems on small lakes and reservoirs, and other water-sensitive sectors can be expected in the designated areas.
The current Level I drought declaration has been expanded into more of the Bluegrass and into parts of eastern Kentucky to cover areas that have widespread dryness throughout with precipitation totals of only 50 to 60 percent of normal for several consecutive months. Significant rainfall has been restricted to southern and eastern parts of the state, while the rest of the state has experienced extremely dry to, in some locations, record dryness during the months of August and September.
Several counties in the central and eastern part of the state that are not within the Level I drought declaration are developing drought-like conditions and impacts. These conditions are the result of the rapid change to a dry weather pattern over the past 30 to 60 days. If this pattern persists, it is expected that drought declarations will be declared for additional counties.
Streamflows on larger rivers (Green, Kentucky, Licking, Big Sandy and Ohio rivers) have remained at normal levels due to the releases from U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) lakes and timely rains in their headwaters. USACE reports their lakes are at normal water levels and many have undergone releases to lower levels to winter pool to help maintain, and even increase, flows on the rivers they supply. Water levels in many smaller streams are extremely low, including the Drakes Creek watershed in Simpson and Allen counties, Elkhorn Creek in Central Kentucky, Rolling Fork River in the Lincoln Trail Region, Eagle Creek in Northern Kentucky, and the Red River in Powell and Wolfe counties.
Most of Kentucky’s potable water supply sources are currently at safe levels. However, a few water systems relying on small lakes or reservoirs may begin to experience low water supplies. If these conditions continue to develop, water supply shortage watches will be issued by the Division of Water for the affected areas.
Wildfires have become a serious issue in areas experiencing drought conditions. The Division of Forestry reports a very large increase in wildfires during the month of September. The largest number of fires have been located in the Big Sandy, Pennyrile, Green River, Lincoln Trail and Kentuckiana Regional Planning and Development Agency drought management areas. The public is urged to take steps to prevent wildfires from starting.
The Fall Forest Fire Hazard Season begins today and a number of counties are already under burn bans. A list of counties currently under a burn ban can be found at http://forestry.ky.gov/wildlandfiremanagement/Pages/CountyBurnBans.aspx
The National Weather Service offices have begun their fire weather forecasts early due to the increased wildfire risk. These are the office links:
Louisville Office: http://www.crh.noaa.gov/lmk/?n=fireweather
Paducah Office: http://www.crh.noaa.gov/pah/?n=firewx
Jackson Office: http://www.crh.noaa.gov/jkl/fire.php
Charleston, W. Va. Office: http://www.erh.noaa.gov/rlx/firewx.html
Wilmington, Ohio Office: http://www.erh.noaa.gov/iln/fireweather.php
The drought significantly affected agriculture. The dry conditions have sped up harvests, significantly reduced corn and soybean yields and caused over-drying of tobacco. The poor quality of many pastures has forced many producers to begin feeding hay to livestock.
Many livestock water supplies have dried up and are forcing producers to rely on municipal suppliers or water districts. These alternate sources result in higher costs for producers and increased demand on public water supplies. Urban landscaping has also been impacted resulting in the browning of lawns and the early loss of leaves on some trees.
Weather outlooks provided by the National Weather Service indicate that chances are slight over the next two months for widespread soaking rainfall events needed to alleviate the drought.. Isolated, spotty events with no real regional improvements in drought status are expected to continue. This will likely exacerbate the current impacts including wildfires, possible water shortages for drought-vulnerable systems, an increased need for livestock water supplies, the selling off of livestock herds, difficulty planting winter wheat fields and hay shortages.
The state Drought Mitigation and Response Plan defines a tiered approach to classifying drought severity using multiple indicators to assess the intensity and location of developing drought. These indicators include the Drought Monitor, Palmer Drought Index, Crop Moisture Index, and precipitation and streamflow measurements.
More information about drought declaration criteria can be found in the Kentucky Drought Mitigation and Response Plan at http://water.ky.gov/wa/Documents/State%20Plan_Final.pdf.
< br />