Alabama is in the middle of one of the driest stretches of weather for the year. A developing drought was being noticed earlier this summer, but only got worse in the month of September. The official weather observing station at the Birmingham airport only picked up two-thirds of an inch of rain TOTAL all month. Similar numbers were noted all across Central Alabama, with Tuscaloosa only picking up a third of an inch of rain! The latest drought monitor puts a decent chunk of the state in the moderate to severe drought categories (65%), while a little more than 6% of the state is in the extreme drought category. We’ve also seen some impacts of the drought the last month, with more than a quarter of the total wildfires reported this year happening in the last 30 days (more than 10% in just the last week). As for the forecast, we look dry for the next several days, so rain relief isn’t on the way. As bad as this drought is, it’s no where close to the drought during this same time back in 2007.
2007 will go down in the history books as one of the driest years on record for the entire Southeast, with more than 40% of the region in an extreme or exceptional drought situation. Compare that with only 4.5% of the region now in those categories. A yearly summary from the AP called the Drought of 2007 the top news story in Alabama. This is the headline from that article: “An estimated 1.9 million residents are living under water restrictions, and rainfall totals are more than 30 inches below normal in some cities. Streams are drying up, lakes are at record low levels, and the state is working on a political solution to make things better.” Pictured is a side-by-side comparison of last week’s drought monitor and the last week of September back in 2007. Notice almost 50% of the state is in an exceptional drought, with more than 70% of the state in an extreme or exceptional drought. Just to understand how bad it was nine years ago, boat ramps at Lake Martin turned into nothing but concrete ramps leading to dry sand. Lake Purdy, which is the Birmingham Water Works main reservoir was 10 feet below full…10 FEET! Basically all fresh water supplies were either dried up or way below average. The worst of it in 2007 was during August, when nearly 75% of the state was in the exceptional drought category.
We wanted to show these comparisons to put things into perspective, but to also warn people that with the historically dry season ahead, we want everyone to do what they can now to prepare for what could be even worse drought conditions to come. Water your lawn sparingly and either during the morning or evening. Cut back on shower times. And maybe most importantly, be careful when lighting any fires, or putting out cigarettes. It doesn’t take much for dry vegetation to catch fire and cause a wildfire that could lead to property damage or worse.