Nearly all of Kentucky is under a moderate to severe drought that has set the stage for scores of wildfires and is causing problems for farmers, according to state agencies.
The state climatologist and the Energy and Environment Cabinet issued a Level 1 drought declaration Thursday covering 117 of the state’s 120 counties.
Only Boone, Kenton and Campbell counties have had enough rain to ward off drought conditions, according to a news release from the cabinet.
The Level 1 declaration means drought conditions are moderate to severe, mostly affecting soil moisture and plant health so far, the news release said.
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The drought has not yet had a serious impact on public water supplies. If drought conditions persist, however, there will be increased risk of shortages in some systems, particularly those that rely on small lakes, certain wells and small headwater streams.
Officials advised local water-system operators to brush up on their water-shortage response plans and said local officials should discuss how they will handle asking residents to conserve water if the need arises.
The drought is affecting farming operations. Cattle producers have been forced to start feeding hay earlier than they would have liked because of a lack of pasture, ponds are low — meaning they could freeze more easily this winter — and crops such as winter wheat are struggling to come up or germinate. That creates more risk of erosion when the state does get some rain or snow.
The amount of rain over the past 90 days has ranged from 40 percent to 75 percent of the normal amount around the state, the cabinet said.
The driest conditions are in southern and Eastern Kentucky, although over the past 30 days, some spots in the western end of the state have received less than a tenth of an inch of rain.
The drought and unseasonably warm weather have worsened fires that have scorched more than 29,000 acres, mostly in southeastern Kentucky.
No significant rain is expected over the next week.
The Division of Water has a drought viewer available at http://watermaps.ky.gov/drought that shows local conditions.