BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — The drought of 2016 is still developing in Alabama and the forecast for this week is only looking worse. On Thursday (10/20), the first real rain we’ve seen in about a month fell, but only in a few spots in Central Alabama. The lucky spots picked up a tenth to a quarter of an inch, but that’s about it. Definitely not enough to ease concerns about a growing drought. Listed below are the average rainfall amounts we should see this far into the calendar year, the actual rainfall totals, and how far below average we are in each spot.
Many areas, most notably East, and Northeast Central Alabama, are feeling it the worst, with Anniston in the worst shape so far. This has prompted officials at Talladega to ban fires in the in the camping areas for the days leading up to the race on October 23. They haven’t had to enact this restriction for quite a while.
So the big question everyone wants to know, besides “when are we going to get some rain?”, is how long could this drought really last? It obviously all depends on our rain chances, and through the rest of the month of October, they don’t look too promising. But even with a few good rain events, we could be a long way from really being rid of drought conditions in the region.
We try and look to recent history for some answers, and a good guide could be the drought of 2007. A historic drought was ongoing in most of the Southeast U.S. and Alabama was at the heart of it. Evidence of the drought started in the summer of that year and continued on into the fall, then the winter, then into 2008. At the worst of it, 3/4 of the state was in the exceptional drought category (pictured right). All in all, Alabama spent a year with at least some part of the state in a exceptional or extreme drought circumstances. Ask anyone who’s lived in the state for a long time and they’ll tell you they’ve never seen anything like it.
It’s hard to say if 2016 will end up being the catastrophic drought that 2007-2008 saw, but it doesn’t take long for conditions to go downhill very quickly. In two months, we went from 15% of the state in the severe drought category to 62% of the state in a severe drought. That’s not to mention the 1/4 of the state in extreme or exceptional drought conditions. The most important things to remember are to be patient with the drought. It won’t go away with just a couple of showers or thunderstorms this fall/winter. It will take some time to dig out of the hole we’re currently in. Also, please follow all the guidelines for water conservation your local utilities recommend. Avoid excess outdoor watering and use a little less water to bathe with. And please, AVOID ANY OUTDOOR BURNING. One spark can cause huge chunks of land to be burned up and putting those fires out uses up our precious water supply. Let’s all do our part to get through this drought.