Tuesday, May 01, 2001

Tristate getting desperate for rain

Lack of moisture nears critical point

By Kristina Goetz
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Cincinnati is more than 7 inches behind in rainfall in 2001, and weather experts say the Tristate is reaching a critical point.

        Across Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio, rainfall is well below normal, which could affect lawns, crops and recreation spots if it doesn't rebound soon.

        “The farther south you go, the worse off you get,” said meteorologist John Center at the National Weather Service in Wilmington, Ohio.

        The central region of the United States — Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, Indiana, West Virginia, Missouri and Illinois — this year recorded one of the 10 driest Marches on record since 1895.

        The less moisture the region gets, the tougher it will be for precipitation to occur, thus perpetuating the problem.

        While today's forecast calls for a 30 percent chance of showers or thunderstorms, farmers and landscapers say it is going to take more than that to catch up.

        Ron Wilson, a sales manager for Natorp's landscape division in Mason, said so far the lack of rain has not damaged any plants. But, he said, employees are encouraging customers to start watering.

        “Don't let the sudden showers or a shower here, a shower there, fool you,” he said. “Plants need about an inch of rainfall every 10 days.

        “We're telling people it's time to start supplementing.”

        Precipitation levels remain very low along the Ohio River from Ohio to the Mississippi River confluence, ac cording to the National Drought Mitigation Center in Lincoln, Neb.

        As a result, moderate drought conditions have developed westward into the Bootheel region of southeast Missouri and into northeastern Arkansas, as well as southern portions of Indiana and Illinois.

        Even though rainfall predictions for the summer are for normal ranges — 3.5 to 4 inches per month — it still may be tough to recover.

        Jerry Brown, a Boone County agriculture extension agent, said if it doesn't rain in the next week or so, drier ground could have an effect on this season's crops.

        “Early on last year we had good rain up until August,” he said. “(This year) it's starting out not looking good so far. Within the next week, it's going to get critical.”


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