Division of Water
Drought continues despite beneficial rainfall
The Office of the State Climatologist and the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet, in coordination with the Kentucky Drought Mitigation Team, are issuing a Level 1 Drought Declaration for seven counties in two drought management areas (DMAs) in northeastern Kentucky. These new counties bring the total to 50 counties in seven DMAs under a Level 2 declaration and 42 counties in nine DMAs under a Level 1 declaration.
Several counties in the central and eastern parts of the state that do not fall within the Level 1 or 2 drought declaration areas are developing drought-like conditions and impacts as the result of the rapid change to a dry weather pattern over the past 30 to 60 days. If this pattern persists, drought declarations will be made for additional counties.
Counties within the new Level 1 drought declaration areas:
Buffalo Trace: Fleming, Lewis
FIVCO DMA: Boyd, Carter, Elliott, Greenup, Lawrence
Counties already within the Level 1 drought declaration areas:
Barren River DMA: Allen, Butler, Edmonson, Hart, Logan, Simpson, Warren
Big Sandy DMA: Magoffin
Bluegrass DMA: Bourbon, Boyle, Clark, Estill, Fayette, Garrard, Jessamine, Lincoln, Madison, Mercer, Nicholas, Powell
Buffalo Trace DMA: Bracken, Mason, Robertson
Gateway DMA: Bath, Menifee, Montgomery, Morgan, Rowan
Kentucky River DMA: Breathitt, Lee, Wolfe
Lake Cumberland DMA: Green, Taylor
Lincoln Trail DMA: Marion, Washington
Counties already within the Level 2 drought declaration areas:
Bluegrass DMA: Anderson, Franklin, Harrison, Scott, Woodford
Green River DMA: Daviess, Hancock, Henderson, McLean, Ohio, Union, Webster
KIPDA: Bullitt, Henry, Jefferson, Oldham, Shelby, Spencer, Trimble
Lincoln Trail: Breckinridge, Grayson, Hardin, LaRue, Meade, Nelson
Northern Kentucky DMA: Boone, Campbell, Carroll, Gallatin, Grant, Kenton, Owen, Pendleton
Pennyrile DMA: Caldwell, Christian, Crittenden, Hopkins, Livingston, Lyon, Muhlenberg, Todd, Trigg
Purchase DMA: Ballard, Calloway, Carlisle, Fulton, Graves, Hickman, Marshall, McCracken
Counties considered abnormally dry:
Barren River DMA: Barren, Metcalfe
Big Sandy DMA: Floyd, Johnson, Martin, Pike
Cumberland Valley DMA: Jackson, Rockcastle
Kentucky River DMA: Knott, Leslie, Letcher, Owsley, Perry
Lake Cumberland DMA: Casey
A Level 1 drought indicates that the state has officially designated a prolonged dry period as a drought. Soil moisture, vegetative health and low fire fuel moisture are primarily affected. Designated areas may experience serious impacts to agricultural water needs, an increased wildfire risk and other water-sensitive sectors.
A Level 2 drought indicates that severe impacts can be expected in the designated regions. Impacts can include an increased number and intensity of wildfires, significant damage to agricultural interests, water supply shortages and severe stress on other water-sensitive sectors.
Rainfall amounts of between 0.5 to 1.5 inches across the Commonwealth Monday and Tuesday did have a short-term impact on the drought, preventing areas in southeast Kentucky from being upgraded to a Level 1 drought and helping to extinguish most of the wildfires that had been burning across the state. The rainfall, however, was not nearly enough to end the drought or lessen the long-term impacts.
Mary Lamm, the service hydrologist for the National Weather Service’s Paducah office, said the dry weather and fire danger will return quickly.
“The rain that fell Tuesday will provide only short-term relief,” said Lamm. “Dry weather will settle into western Kentucky through the weekend. A combination of low relative humidity and an increase in wind speeds will create an enhanced fire danger on Thursday and again Saturday. While there is much uncertainty as to the evolution of the next storm system, the next chance for rain, albeit a small one, will come early next week.”
Wildfires have been a serious issue across the state due to the dry conditions. From Aug. 1 to Oct. 24 there were 497 fires reported to the Kentucky Division of Forestry that burned 9,197 acres. During the same time period last year, there were only 10 reported fires and 13 acres burned.
“Firefighters have gotten a much-needed break with the rain, but they remain alert for future wildfires,” said Steve Kull, assistant director of the Kentucky Division of Forestry. “The front passing through the state on Tuesday brought a sufficient amount of rain to dampen the wildfire danger momentarily. Dry and windy conditions will elevate the wildfire potential in the coming days. Weather predictions indicate continued dry conditions for the foreseeable future.”
Most of Kentucky’s potable water supply sources are currently at safe levels, say officials with the Kentucky Division of Water (DOW). “Due to the lateness of the season, the potential for water shortages is low,” said DOW environmental scientist Bill Caldwell. “We definitely feel a lot better about the situation than we did a month ago.”
Information about drought declaration criteria can be found in the Kentucky Drought Mitigation and Response Plan at http://water.ky.gov/wa/Documents/State%20Plan_Final.pdf.