Cindy Rodriguez is the Urban Policy reporter for New York Public Radio.
Despite Recent Rainy Weather, New York Faces Drought Condition
Sunday, May 06, 2012
The dry winter and spring means New York City started May in Level 1 draught conditions. While that's the least severe level of drought, the lack of moisture is notable.
Climatologists at the Northeast Regional Climate Center said typically the region gets 15 inches of precipitation between January and April. This year there was only 9 inches.
Art Degaetano, a professor of Earth and Atmospheric Science at Cornell, said reservoirs are at sufficiently high levels, mostly because of the heavy storms of last summer and fall which included Tropical Storms Irene and Lee.
Still, Degaetano said streams are low, which could cause spawning problems for fish and the dry ground is a problem for farmers. "Its been quite warm so there is a fair amount of crops that have either been planted or starting to grow and they're being affected by the lack of moisture," Degaetano said.
Greg Debuck owns a sod farm in Orange County and said the weather has made it hard to do his work this year. He had to irrigate his farm in March because of the dry weather, something he would not typically do until well into the hot summer months. The floods caused by Irene killed his crop, he said. He reseeded only to be hit by the unusually dry weather. The recent rains have helped but Debuck said, "Everything seems to be in extremes now."
Drought conditions also make brush fires more common. In April, a series of brush fires broke out. One in Suffolk County affected about 2,000 acres, another was in Staten Island near the Fresh Kills, landfill. Both were exacerbated by windy conditions.
It's hard to tell whether the drought will worsen in the summer. Degaetano said just because a preceding winter and spring are dry doesn't mean the summer will be the same. "If we look at all the winters that were fairly dry, there is no relationship to the summer. It's equally likely that they were dry, wet or normal," Degaetano explained.
Farmers, like Debuck, are hoping for the best.