Coming off the end of 2016, the Tennessee Valley experienced a serious rainfall deficit of 9 to 12 inches.
It is now about 6 weeks into the 2017, and while the year started off with decent rainfall, the month of February is running about 1 to 1.75 inches below average with respect to the amount of rain that Huntsville and Muscle Shoals have received.
Year to date, both climate reporting stations are showing a rainfall deficit of nearly half to one inch.
For that reason, the latest drought conditions within the Valley show a slight deterioration compared to the previous week.
000 AXUS74 KHUN 161843 DGTHUN ALC033-043-049-059-071-077-079-083-089-095-103-TNC051-103-127-181845- Drought Information Statement National Weather Service Huntsville AL 1243 PM CST Thu Feb 16 2017 ...Despite some recent rainfall, streamflow and soil moisture conditions along with other drought indices indicate that drought conditions have degraded slightly since last week... Synopsis... According to the Drought Monitor valid Tuesday, February 14, 2017, Severe Drought (D2) conditions remain across southern and eastern portions of the Huntsville County Warning and Forecast Area (CWFA). The main change that was noted from this time last week was the expansion of D2 conditions northwestward into portions of Morgan, Lawrence, and extreme eastern Colbert counties in Northwestern Alabama. The severe drought conditions are now occurring generally along and south of a line from Ider in northern DeKalb County, to Guntersville, Arab, Decatur, and Courtland. This includes much of DeKalb, Marshall and Morgan Counties, nearly all of Lawrence County and all of Cullman County. Elsewhere, Moderate Drought /D1/ conditions were prevalent across northern Alabama, with the exception of a small portion of Lauderdale County, which is still under an Abnormally Dry /D0/ designation. In southern Middle Tennessee, there was no change from this time last week. Conditions are designated as Abnormally Dry, with the exception of a small portion of southeastern Franklin County, which is still under a Moderate Drought designation. Note: Precipitation and other conditions (streamflows, soil moisture,etc.) that determine drought designations each week for the U.S. Drought Monitor are based on data that end at 6AM CST each Tuesday. So, any precipitation that falls after the 6AM cutoff is not factored into designations for that week, but will of course be factored into designations for the following weekly issuance. Also, the designation of a drought is a multi-faceted process that includes numerous data from a variety of physical systems on different space and time scales, which include precipitation, soil moisture, streamflows, various drought indices, and groundwater, just to name a few. Summary of Impacts... State and local declarations: The Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA) Office of Water Resources placed all of the counties in the Huntsville CWA, with the exception of Cullman County, in a Drought Advisory as of the January 26th declaration. Cullman County is in a Drought Watch. This is a vast improvement from the entire Huntsville CWFA included in a 'Drought Emergency' late last year through early this year. The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) had been in a State of Emergency due to the dry conditions and wildfires that had taken place, especially in southeastern parts of the state. However, the State Emergency Operations Center activation level has now been changed to five, which is the normal operations level. Agricultural Impacts... Since the primary growing season has not begun yet in the region, Crop and Progress Condition Reports are not currently being issued from the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service. These reports are expected to resume in April. Nevertheless, D3 and D4 drought conditions during the growing season last year resulted in Disaster Declarations for all of the counties in the Huntsville CWA as Primary Natural Disaster Areas due to damages/losses caused by the recent drought. This includes the counties of Colbert, Cullman, Dekalb, Franklin (AL), Franklin (TN), Jackson, Lauderdale, Lincoln (TN), Madison, Marshall, Moore (TN), Morgan, Lawrence, and Limestone. Fire Danger Impacts... Currently, there are no burn restrictions from the Alabama Forestry Commission (AFC). Nevertheless, the AFC advises anyone conducting outdoor burning to follow safety precautions. Any fire more than a quarter acre in size or within 25 feet of a forested area requires a permit from the AFC. The State of Tennessee rescinded their burn ban on December 19, 2016. There are no Commissioner of Agriculture Burn Bans currently in effect in the state. However, a Debris Burning Permit from the Tennessee Department of Agriculture Division of Forestry is required through May 15, 2017 to burn leaf and brush piles for residents in Franklin, Lincoln, and Moore Counties. Citizens may obtain Burn Permits by going to www.burnsafetn.org. The Keetch-Byram Drought Index (KBDI) available from the U.S. Forest Service Wildland Fire Assessment System shows that values are below 200 across the entire region. Other Impacts... During the height of the drought last Fall, local news reported that many home foundation repair businesses in Northern Alabama were busy because dry conditions had caused large cracks and other damage to home foundations. Also, County Officials especially in Northwestern Alabama reported that large numbers of cracks had appeared on roadways due to the drought. This included portions of the Natchez Trace Parkway in Northwestern Alabama in adjacent areas. Recently, on January 24, 2017, the County Engineer of Colbert County reported that drought damage to roads was continuing and that a crack sealing machine would be required to repair the cracks. Meanwhile, hay and forage were reported to be in short supply across parts of the state, as drought conditions led many farmers to postpone or even skip the planting of winter grazing. Alabama farmers have been purchasing hay from across the Southeast to feed livestock. Climate Summary... Over the past week, temperatures have averaged above normal. In fact, of the last 7 days, only one was observed as 'below normal', and it was in the wake of a weak cold front that pushed across the area on the 8th into the 9th. Since that time, temperatures have soared to around 15 to 20 degrees above normal on some days! Another cold front pushed across the area on Valentine's Day, with temperatures falling from the 60s back into the lower/middle 50s, which is near normal for this time of year. Precipitation has been generally light during the last week, aside from around a quarter of an inch with the most recent cold front in many locations, to lesser amounts with the cold front back on the 8th and 9th. Precipitation values with that frontal passage were generally around a tenth of an inch or less. Normal weekly rainfall for this time of year is around 1 to 1.25 inches. Over the last 30 days, precipitation has generally been near to below normal in northwestern Alabama and above normal in eastern parts of the area, including southern middle Tennessee. Temperatures have averaged well above normal during the period. Normal monthly precipitation for this time of year is around 4.5 to 5 inches. Longer-term precipitation deficits remain, which is part of the reason for the continuing drought designations across the area. On 180-day time scales (going back to mid September), precipitation deficits are still around eight to ten inches across large portions of the area...especially coincident with the Severe Drought designated areas, but also across much of northwestern Alabama. Precipitation deficits are still around four to eight inches across much of the remainder of the area during this same period. Although, precipitation deficits are smallest in Franklin County, TN, where rainfall is near to about 2-3 inches below normal for the past six months. Longer-term temperatures have averaged well above normal for most of the last year which helped lead to the development and sustenance of drought conditions. While this past fall ranked as the warmest on record at both Huntsville and Muscle Shoals (and second at Scottsboro), annual temperatures for 2016 overall were the warmest on record, edging out the old record for 2015 by one whole degree! The warm trend is continuing so far in 2017. January was among the top ten warmest Januaries on record at many locations, and was third warmest at Huntsville. Temperatures so far during February are averaging around 6 to 7 degrees Fahrenheit above normal. Precipitation/Temperature Outlook... Temperatures will be near normal to start the period, with temperatures warming through the rest of the week and into the weekend ahead. Daytime highs for Sunday through Tuesday will be in the lower 70s at many locations, with morning lows in the lower 50s. This is about 15 to 20 degrees above normal for this time of year. Though a couple of chances for precipitation exist during the next 7 days, amounts will remain rather light, with generally less than a quarter of an inch of rainfall expected. The Outlook for Week Two (February 23rd to March 1st) from the Climate Prediction Center (CPC) moderately favors above normal temperatures, with equal chances for below, near or above normal precipitation. The latest Monthly Outlook for March from the CPC moderately favors above normal temperatures and above normal precipitation during the month. The latest Seasonal Outlook for the March through May period from the CPC strongly favors above normal temperatures, with equal chances for below, near or above normal precipitation. Hydrologic Summary and Outlook... River and creek streamflows have wavered from above normal to below normal during the last couple of months. Heavy rains during the fourth week of January led to significant rises on most creeks and rivers. However, river and stream levels fell significantly again during early February. Rivers have experienced fluctuations in flows due to rainfall over the last couple of weeks, but overall, 7-day average streamflow values remain low for this time of year. Below are some 7-day average streamflow percentiles from across the area: Bear Creek............1st percentile Big Nance Creek.......4th percentile Cypress Creek.........4th percentile Sipsey Fork...........8th percentile Limestone Creek.......22nd percentile Paint Rock River......23rd percentile Mulberry Fork.........29th percentile Flint River...........30th percentile Lake and river levels along the heavily regulated Tennessee River system have largely been unaffected by drought conditions over the last year and are operating within normal pool levels. However, Tims Ford Lake continues to operate above the normal guide curve for this time of year. Lewis Smith Lake is also operating a little above the normal guide curve for this time of year. According to the CPC, the latest Daily Soil Moisture rankings continue to indicate very low values for this time of year. As of February 15th, soil moisture rankings were generally around the 1st to 5th percentiles across about the eastern half of the area, and only in the 5th to 10th percentiles in the western half. The U.S. Geological Survey groundwater well site in Cullman County shows that groundwater levels fell below the daily median value during the March to late April period and have since remained below average since that time. Water levels have climbed steadily since late January, but are still about five feet below the median statistic for this time of year. Groundwater levels at the monitoring site in Lawrence County declined rapidly from early September into late November, but rose sharply after heavy rainfall in late November into early December. Since early December, well water depths at this location have been near the median statistic. Next issuance date... The next Drought Statement will be issued Thursday, February 23, 2017. && Related Web Sites...(use lower case) U.S. Drought Monitor webpage: http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu Climate Prediction Center: http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov For information about Alabama Drought Declarations, visit: http://www.adeca.alabama.gov/divisions/owr/pages/default.aspx For information from the Alabama Forestry Commission, visit: http://forestry.alabama.gov Wildfire information from the Alabama Forestry Commission: http://forestry.alabama.gov/fire_totals.aspx?bv=1&s=4 Radar estimated precipitation amounts can be obtained here: http://water.weather.gov/precip Streamflows are obtained from the USGS here: http://waterwatch.usgs.gov/index.php Lake levels for the Tennessee River can be obtained here: http://www.tva.com/lakeinfo/ USGS groundwater well site information for Alabama: http://waterdata.usgs.gov/al/nwis/current/ ?type=gw&group_key=county_cd Acknowledgements... Some data used in this statement were provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Tennessee Valley Authority, and the States of Alabama and Tennessee. Questions or Comments... For questions or comments on the drought, please contact: National Weather Service Huntsville 320A Sparkman Drive Huntsville, AL 35805 Phone: 256-890-8503 firstname.lastname@example.org $$ Amin/White