Dry spell lands Chattanooga on drought monitor

Dry spell lands Chattanooga on drought monitor

May 16th, 2012 by Adam Poulisse in News

Maryclair McDonald, a freshman at UTC, makes her way home after finishing classes as light rain falls on Feb. 1, 2012. Chattanooga is behind in normal rainfall and has been labeled "abnormally dry" by weather officials.

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.


January -- 7.10 inches

February -- 2.25 inches

March -- 5.40 inches

April -- 0.69 inches

May (month to date) -- 1.62 inches

Total rainfall as of May 15 -- 17.06 inches

Year-to-date normal -- 20.69 inches

Source: Morristown, Tenn., National Weather Service website

Chattanooga is "abnormally dry" right now, according to weather officials.

Yearly, monthly and seasonally, Chattanooga is behind in rainfall, said Kate Guillet, a meteorological intern with the National Weather Service in Morristown, Tenn.

Chattanooga was the only area covered by the Morristown office -- East Tennessee, Southwest North Carolina and Southwest Virginia -- deemed dry enough by the Climate Prediction Center to make it on the U.S. Drought Monitor, Guillet said.

"It just happened to be that area received less rain than any other area," she said. "When we did get rainfall it happened to move to Knoxville and the other climate sites we have data for."

So far this month, Chattanooga has received 1.62 inches of rain, meteorologist Shawn O'Neill said.

That's low, Guillet said, but the month is only half over.

Since January, Chattanooga has seen barely over 17 inches of rain, O'Neill said, which is 3.63 inches below average.

WRCB-TV Channel 3 chief meteorologist Paul Barys said the Tennessee Valley saw about 1 to 3 inches of rain on Monday.

But "just because it rains doesn't mean you're out of the drought," Guillet said. "The longer you're in a drought the more water it will take to come out of it."

A new U.S. Drought Monitor that updates Chattanooga's drought status is issued every Thursday, Barys said.

While isolated rainfall was forecast Tuesday afternoon, there is only a 10 percent chance of rain, with the highest chances being along the Blue Ridge Mountains in Georgia and North Carolina, Barys said.

"I'm still concerned because we're getting into the drier part of the year," he said. "The pattern is such that it's going to be normally dry. This area has a tendency to be very wet or very dry."

Characteristics for this kind of drought include river and stream levels decreasing and plants turning brown or possibly dying, Guillet said.

Frank Johnson, annuals greenhouse manager of Barn Nursery on 24th St., has noticed a drying trend over the past couple of years. That spurred him into buying a new irrigation system for the greenhouse that mixes city and well water together to water the plants.

"It cuts down costs and it's a little bit cleaner for the plants," he said.

Some homeowners have come to Barn Nursery expressing concerns for their plants and lack of recent rain, Johnson said.