State Drought Task Force Says Drought Conditions Have Improved in Sections of Maine

State Drought Task Force Says Drought Conditions Have Improved in Sections of Maine

08/02/2021 AUGUSTA, MAINE – Maine’s Drought Task Force convened virtually last Thursday, July 29th for the second time this season to discuss drought conditions across the state. While coastal Maine and into the far eastern portion of Aroostook County are not experiencing drought, central and northern Maine are considered abnormally dry, the interior portion is classified in moderate drought, and western Maine is the driest region with severe drought status. Data from the U.S.”>”>U.S. Drought Monitor show 72% of the state is abnormally dry, 33% is moderately dry, and 8% is in severe drought.

“Perspective is important when it comes to the drought,” said Nick Stasulis, Data Section Chief of the U.S. Geological Survey and Co-chair of the Drought Task Force. “Folks in coastal and eastern Maine may not think there’s an issue as there’s been improvement in streamflow conditions due to recent rain, but fast-moving storms are generally not conducive to groundwater recharge.”

Heavy downpours during the past two weeks have aided in easing drought conditions. “We’ve been put into a weather pattern that is much wetter than we normally see,” said Sarah Jamison of the National Weather Service in Gray. “May and June saw notably warmer temperatures, which increase evaporation of groundwater. July has been below normal temperature and wetter, though the rain has been heavy deluges that runs off; not a slow rain that allows for groundwater recharge.”

Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry (DACF) Public Service Coordinator Tom Gordon said, “Persistent showers have reduced the need for supplemental irrigation of crops in many areas. Many farmers are reporting improved crop growth and quality. Some crop loss was noted from early summer drought.” Federal and state agricultural offices will continue to monitor precipitation and crop conditions.

A total of 15 dry wells have been reported this season. Private landowners in Maine who are experiencing dry wells are encouraged to report that information on the Dry”>”>Dry Well Survey.

“Conditions are looking better and that’s good news, but it won’t take much to push back the other way,” said Maine Emergency Management Agency Director Peter Rogers. “We’re not out of the woods yet.”

DACF’s Maine Forest Service reports recent rains have helped the fire danger in many parts of the state. They have responded to 31 fires in the last 30 days, with just 5 fires in the last week. Regional Forest Ranger Matt Gomes said, “Most or all of our 12 fire weather zones have recently calculated fire indices hovering between low and moderate. It seems that much of our precipitation has been on the weekends where we historically experience the highest fire numbers. Having rain on a weekend deters many from burning and it certainly limits or eliminates the chance of a fire escaping. We should expect a rise in fire activity if we start into another prolonged drying trend.”

The Drought Task Force is made up of state, federal and private scientific, agricultural, regulatory, water use and natural resources organizations and assists in monitoring, coordinating, and managing responses to droughts and recommends actions to minimize impacts to public health, safety, the environment and agriculture. The Task Force will continue to monitor the situation and plans to convene again in one month unless conditions worsen and would then consider meeting sooner.

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