2010-09-23 / Front Page

Fulton Under Drought Warning

Farmers hit hard by little rain, hot temperatures
By Jean Snyder
STAFF WRITER

Summer’s dry weather has created a “very high” fire danger in the county on Tuesday as well as in many recent days and weeks. The Bureau of Forestry’s sign is located at the McConnellsburg Volunteer Fire Company’s station and firemen and trucks in the background stand ready to respond to calls. Summer’s dry weather has created a “very high” fire danger in the county on Tuesday as well as in many recent days and weeks. The Bureau of Forestry’s sign is located at the McConnellsburg Volunteer Fire Company’s station and firemen and trucks in the background stand ready to respond to calls. Last Thursday, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) issued a drought warning for 24 Pennsylvania counties that includes Fulton, Franklin, Bedford and Huntingdon and a drought watch for the remaining 43 counties as precipitation deficits continued to worsen statewide, according to Environmental Protection Secretary John Hanger.

A drought warning asks residents to reduce water use voluntarily by 10 to 15 percent, while a drought watch calls for a voluntary 5 percent reduction in nonessential water use, and puts large water consumers on notice to begin planning for the possibility of reduced water supplies.

The other 20 counties under the drought warning include Allegheny, Beaver, Berks, Bucks, Carbon, Fayette, Greene, Lackawanna, Lawrence, Lehigh, Luzerne, Mercer, Monroe, Montgomery, Northampton, Philadelphia, Pike, Schuylkill, Somerset and Washington.

With only a total of 5.7 inches of rain recorded in the past 90 days, Fulton County would need to see a total of 4.5 inches to catch up to normal precipitation levels. That figure is as high as 5 inches in Franklin County and 5.7 inches in Somerset County, which suffers from the state’s greatest rainfall deficit over the past 90 days, according to the National Weather Service’s drought information statement.

For example, for the 30-day period August 21 to September 10, 2010, Fulton County received 1.4 inches of rain or only about 45 percent of normal precipitation of 3.1 inches for that period. For the most recent 60-day period, Fulton received only 41 percent of normal rainfall, which would be 6.4 inches. The county only recorded 2.6 inches for that 60-day period.

Earlier this month, the state Department of Agriculture announced that farmers in 38 Pennsylvania counties are eligible for emergency loans following a U.S. Department of Agriculture declaration designed to help producers recover from crop losses associated with dry weather conditions this summer.

Sixteen counties, including Fulton and Franklin, were declared primary disaster areas. The other 14 counties include Bucks, Carbon, Chester, Dauphin, Lehigh, Luzerne, Monroe, Montgomery, Northampton, Northumberland, Schuylkill, Snyder, Union and York. Twentytwo additional counties that border the primary disaster area were named contiguous disaster areas.

Farmers in the primary and contiguous drought counties may apply for low-interest emergency loans through their county farm service agency, provided they meet eligibility requirements. Producers have eight months from the date of the disaster declaration to apply. The agency will consider each application on its own merit based on losses, available resources and repayment ability.

According to John Johnston, county executive director, Fulton County Farm Service Agency, county farmers have lost more than half of many of their crops due to drought conditions. Corn, alfalfa and hay are considered to be a 40 to 50 percent loss while pasture and soybeans have suffered a 50 to 60 percent loss. Johnston said oats, wheat and barley crops are normal at this point.

In the meantime, crops are not the only thing affected by the drought. According to the U.S. Forest Service, rainfall also can be a factor in why leaves change color in the fall. According to the service, “a late spring, or a severe summer drought, can delay the onset of fall color by a few weeks. A warm period during fall will also lower the intensity of autumn colors. A warm wet spring, favorable summer weather and warm, sunny fall days with cool nights should produce the most brilliant autumn colors.”

DEP offers the following tips for help in conserving the 10 to 15 percent water consumption around the home:

In the bathroom:

Install low-flow plumbing fixtures and aerators on faucets;

Check for household leaks – a leaking toilet can waste up to 200 gallons of water a day;

Take short showers instead of baths.

Kitchen/laundry areas:

Replace older appliances with high efficiency, frontloading models that use about 30 percent less water and 40-50 percent less energy;

Run dishwashers and washing machines only with full loads;

Keep water in the refrigerator to avoid running water from a faucet until it is cold.

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