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Area experiencing abnormally dry conditions

Lazaro Aleman: Greene Publishing, Inc.

Although Florida is not officially in a drought, parts of North Florida – including Jefferson and Madison counties – are experiencing abnormally dry conditions, according to the Florida Drought Monitor maintained by the National Weather Service.

Residents, however, have merely to step outside to know conditions are hot and dry, the ground parched and the foliage stressed.

Drought, states the National Drought Mitigation Center (NDMC), is a hazard of nature as deadly and destructive as its "natural hazard cousins" of wildfires and tornadoes, if less dramatic and readily visible in the short term.

"In fact, those familiar with drought call it a 'creeping phenomenon,' because what may first appear to be merely a dry spell can only be discerned in hindsight as the early days of a drought," the NDMC website states.

The concept of drought is also geographically relative: A week without rain in a tropical climate may be viewed as a drought, whereas a rainless span of days or weeks in an arid climate may be considered typical. Droughts, moreover, can coexist with record rainfalls, according to the NDMC.

Generally speaking, however, drought is defined as "a deficiency of precipitation over an extended period of time (usually a season or more) and resulting in a water shortage."

So no, North Florida is not in a drought yet. And in fact, the immediate forecast calls for a low possibility of rain during the weekend. Which is something to be wished for, if only to lower the 90-plus degree temperatures that the area has been experiencing.

The Suwannee River Water Management District (SRWMD), in its latest hydrologic condition report for April, notes that the rainfall level for the district was 2.73 inches for the month, which is lower than the long-term April average of 3.38 inches.

Indeed, with the exception of two days in April when widespread rains dropped an average of 0.5-plus inches across the district, rainfalls were scarce throughout the month. The report notes that the lower-than-average rainfall in recent months has resulted in a steady decline in the districtwide 12-month rainfall surplus that the district had accumulated since December 2018 with its record-breaking rainfalls.

Overall, according to the SRWMD, river levels declined in April, as did levels in the Upper Floridan Aquifer. The exception was the springs, which retained high levels in many areas.

The district continues to advise water conservation to sustain healthy groundwater levels and flows in its springs and rivers. Water consumers are urged to eliminate unnecessary uses. For more information on water conservation measures, visit http://www.srwmd.org.

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