August, September driest since 1897

Kentucky has just been through its driest August and September since 1897, but there could be rain as early as Tuesday night.

The 2.62 inches of rain recorded over last two months was the second-lowest amount in 114 years of record-keeping, according to numbers compiled by the University of Kentucky Agricultural Weather Center.

The driest year for the two-month period was 1897. In the top 10 for driest August-September combinations, last year came in at No. 9.

Kentucky was in extreme drought last year. Thanks to a wet start to 2008, most of the state is in moderate drought now.

Repercussions large and small are spreading because of the recent lack of rain.

Arborist Dave Leonard is seeing a lot of dead trees, particularly wild cherries and hackberries, he said Monday.

Interviewed by phone as he drove along Interstate 64 between Lexington and Louisville, Leonard said he had seen “hundreds and hundreds” of trees that appeared to be dead.

“They’re not going to leaf out next year, and if they do, they’re going to leaf out, then die,” he said.

Coincidentally, he said, trees in urban areas appear to be faring better. He attributed that to all the hardscape — roofs and parking lots — channeling water to the few green areas where trees are growing. His advice: Water them more because they still are stressed.

Experts disagree on what effect dry weather has on the intensity of autumn foliage. Last year, when the drought was worse, the leaves changed later in the season, and didn’t last long.

UK entomologist Lee Townsend, meanwhile, said yellow jackets, wasps and hornets that are attracted to open soft drink cans early each fall are especially frantic this year. He cautioned that their stings can be life-threatening to people with allergies.

“If you’re stung and you show a reaction by becoming dizzy, developing hives or having difficulty breathing, you should seek medical attention immediately,” Townsend said in a news release.

Bill Caldwell, who tracks water supplies for the state Division of Water, said Kentucky’s worst trouble spot in in Salyersville and Magoffin County, which are at the headwaters of the Licking River.

The Kentucky River, which is Lexington’s source, is low but adequate.

The flow into the pool from which Lexington’s supply is drawn dipped below 65 million gallons a day early last week. But rain in the Kentucky’s headwaters pushed the flow to 83 million gallons a day and rising on Monday.

The amount Kentucky American Water is treating for its customers is well below that, Caldwell said. The flow will be augmented later this month when the Corps of Engineers starts releasing water from Buckhorn Lake in Eastern Kentucky.

And Keys Arnold, a UK meteorologist, said October is the month in which we usually start to move from late-summer dry to wetter winter weather.

The forecast this week promises rain, starting with a 50 percent chance Tuesday night, increasing to a 70 percent chance Wednesday.

Some areas in Central Kentucky could get an inch of rain, Arnold said.

Last week marked the eighth week out of nine in which below-normal rainfall was reported. The last rain in Lexington was last Tuesday, when .42 of an inch was recorded. The time before that was the .31 of an inch on Sept. 11 — almost three weeks earlier.