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Area is in early drought
Tuesday, July 22, 2014
By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer
Henry County and Martinsville are abnormally dry, but rainfall is expected throughout this week, according to the National Weather Service.
Abnormally dry is how the U.S. Drought Monitor currently assesses most of southwestern Virginia eastward through Henry County and Martinsville and into Danville and southern Pittsylvania County, its website shows.
Chris Fisher, a meteorologist at the weather service office in Blacksburg, said abnormally dry “basically is the initial category for a drought.”
The weather service’s official rainfall totals for all of southern Virginia are amounts recorded at Danville. As of Sunday, data collected there revealed, the region had received 3.83 inches of rain since June 1. That was 3.05 inches less than the yearly average of 6.88 inches for the period.
The data showed that since Jan. 1, 22.39 inches of rain had fallen, which was 2.37 inches less than the yearly average of 24.76 inches through July 20. Last year, 34.03 inches of rain had fallen through that date.
However, data collected at Martinsville’s Water Filtration Plant showed that as of Sunday, 18.98 inches of rain had fallen there so far this year. That was down from the 29.2 inches that fell through July 20 last year.
Western portions of Henry County are wetter than Martinsville and eastern parts of the county. Fisher said that so far this month, western areas have seen 2 to 3 inches of rain while eastern area have seen an inch or less.
There has been “significantly less rainfall there than in the western half” of the county, he emphasized.
A vertical line could be drawn through the center of the county to distinguish wetter areas from drier ones, he noted.
According to Fisher, there are two main reasons for the rainfall variances: More storms recently have trekked across western parts of the county than eastern parts, and some storms are larger than others.
Due to heat and humidity, he said, “we get a lot of pulse thunderstorms” — also known as pop-up storms — during the summer in Virginia. Those storms usually cover smaller areas and do not last as long as other types, although they can dump a great deal of rain within a short time.
Virginia Cooperative Extension officials could not be reached Monday for comment on how the overall lack of rainfall has affected crops. However, Fisher said he would surmise it has had only a minor impact.
Showers and thunderstorms are in the weather service’s forecast through Thursday. Fisher said the area could get an inch or more of rainfall. Higher amounts are possible anywhere that stronger storms occur, he said.
“The rainfall we’re expected to get this week will help significantly” in preventing the abnormally dry conditions from becoming a full-fledged drought, he added.