As for the dry part, according to the National Weather Service, you can count on that.
Looking at the weather pattern developing along the equator in the Pacific Ocean, the NWS predicts that Alabamians should not expect much relief from the drought warnings that have already been issued for 23 of the state’s 67 counties.
This level, one step from the most severe drought classification, is determined by the amount of rainfall an area has received and how much is predicted for it in the months to come.
In our region, normally one of the wettest regions in the state, Calhoun, Cleburne and Talladega counties are among the counties listed under the drought warnings.
The good news is that the Alabama Power Co. lakes are in such good shape that the company is beginning its fall draw-down in anticipation of winter rains.
But the tricky question is, will the winter rains come?
That decision highlights the problem with weather prediction and human needs. Alabama Power and other regional utilities draw down the reservoirs to regulate winter flow and help with flood control. At the same time, it is tradition for lake property owners to use the fall draw-down to repair docks and retaining walls so they can be ready for spring and summer.
But if the rains don’t come and the lakes don’t fill, that creates some serious problems across this state.
Farmers also are anxiously watching the weather, something they always do, but this year they are doing that more frequently than in the past. Ground-water tables are low and so is soil moisture. Agriculture exists in that narrow range between “too wet to plow” and “too dry to plant,” and if the soil falls into the latter category, crops will get into the ground late, if at all.
Irrigation can help alleviate the problem in some parts of the state, but only if there is water to pump from the ground or farm ponds. Both of those sources are also drought-affected.
The greatest users (and wasters) of water remain businesses, municipalities and, especially, residences. If drought conditions worsen, as it is predicted they will, all Alabamians will be called on to conserve. It would not hurt to begin now.