Fayette County

Central Kentucky flirting with moderate drought

Nights perfect for sleeping, days drenched with sunshine, clear blue skies — Lexington has had just about all the nice weather it can stand.

But the forecast for this week calls for even more comfortable temperatures, and not a dark cloud or drop of rain in sight.

It's been so nice that our lawns and pastures are brown and we're in a mild drought, flirting with moderate.

Monday marked the end of the city's twelfth-driest summer since record-keeping began in 1896. In Louisville, it was the third-driest.

Six of the last seven weeks have had below-normal rainfall.

Since June 1, we've received 10 inches of rain — more than 6 inches under par. That's less rain that we recorded during the same period last year, when the region was skidding into extreme drought and mandatory restrictions meant that watering a flower on the wrong day of the week could bring the police to your door.

"It has been a remarkably dry summer," said Keys Arnold at the University of Kentucky's Agricultural Weather Center. "The only reason we're not in as bad a shape is we had a wet spring. Last year started dry and stayed dry."

Mark Reese, an extension agent in Scott County, said the combination of back-to-back droughts is about as bad as he has seen.

"The last two years have not been good ones to be on a farm," he said.

Hoppy Henton, a Woodford County farmer, said the main problem he and many like him face is finding something for their cattle to graze on.

"I'm scrambling desperately to find pasture," he said.

Some of the weather has been downright freakish.

Take corn, for example. The stalks were weakened by not getting enough rain. Then, a couple of Sundays ago, the remnants of Hurricane Ike brought high winds and — whoosh! — flattened the corn.

Unlike last year, the water supply for Lexington and Kentucky is holding up pretty well, said Bill Caldwell of the state Division of Water.

Salyersville in Magoffin County, which is near the headwaters of the Licking River, has mandatory restrictions on outdoor water use. In Olive Hill in Carter County, voluntary restrictions are in place.

The Kentucky River is low, but not worrisome. It was flowing into the pool from which Lexington draws water at a rate of 85 million gallons a day Monday, compared with 50 million a year ago. Brian Wright, a spokesman for Kentucky American Water, said that with summer gone, the company anticipates no problems with supply.

In a few weeks, Caldwell said, the flow of the Kentucky will be bolstered by releases from lakes in Eastern Kentucky.

But what we really need, he said, is water that comes from the sky.

"Since the end of July, it's pretty much just shriveled up," he said.