Much of Kentucky in severe drought : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Published Tuesday, May 8, 2001, in the Herald-Leader

Much of state in severe drought; Bluegrass figures are the worst

And things aren't expected to get better any time soon By Lance Williams HERALD-LEADER STAFF WRITER

Nearly three-quarters of Kentucky was declared yesterday to be in a severe drought, reviving memories of a 1999 dry spell that resulted in statewide water restrictions and widespread forest fires.

Only the state's Eastern region stayed in the moderate category in the most recent drought numbers; the Bluegrass, Central and Western regions all moved into the severe category, with the Bluegrass posting the worst number.

Although yesterday's numbers don't reflect the occasionally heavy showers that dotted the state Sunday, officials said that alone won't end the drought.

``A lot of it just ends up running off,'' said Keith Berger, a meteorological technician with the National Weather Service office in Jackson. ``What we need is a slow, steady rain.''

The state's drought numbers, known as the Palmer Drought Severity Index, are calculated by measuring moisture levels in the soil, not by rainfall totals.

The prospects for adding to that moisture level in the next few days are spotty, the weather service says.

Longer-range models show that more significant rainfall is not expected for at least two weeks, said Leon Smothers, a manager with the state Division of Water.

According to the weather service, Sunday's rain fell mostly in the place that, at least by the Palmer index, needs it least: southeastern Kentucky. Parts of Harlan County received more than 1.4 inches, and Clay County received 0.85 inches.

From Friday to Sunday, the portion of Harlan County near Black Mountain received nearly 4 inches of rain. A flash flood warning was issued Sunday night, but no major problems were reported yesterday.

To the north, the rainfall was more sparse. Breathitt County received about 0.2 inches, and Magoffin County received only a trace.

In Lexington, about 0.4 inches fell Sunday, and less than 0.2 inches had fallen as of 11 p.m. yesterday.

The attention to the drought index and to rainfall totals hark back to 1999, when a severe drought caused water restrictions in scores of counties and towns. By late fall, the drought took its toll on Kentucky forests, with more than 152,000 acres burned by nearly 2,500 fires.

This year's rainfall totals are worse than the comparable time period in 1999, meaning state and local officials are monitoring water levels closely.

The Division of Water recently called local reservoirs across the state to find out about potential problems.

``Things are still holding up pretty well,'' Smothers said. ``It's not good, but not awful.''

Reach Lance Williams in the Hazard bureau at (606) 436-5549 or

-- Martin Thompson (, May 08, 2001

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