WASHINGTON – This summer’s drought is likely to linger through thefall and possibly the winter in Maryland, weather officials saidThursday.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s fall and winter outlooks show that Mid-Atlantic states like Maryland will continue to seedry weather through November. Maryland can also expect a less benignwinter than last years, with more storms.
Officials blame it on El Nino, the warm-weather phenomenon thatwreaked havoc in the form of floods 1997 and 1998 is driving force behindthe drought, keeping all rain to the southern third of the nation.
About 30 percent of the nation is currently experiencing severedrought conditions, and NOAA officials said they expect that to persistinto the fall.
The NOAA predictions are bad news for Maryland’s farmers and water suppliers, who have been suffering through months of dry weather.
“If we see this type of weather pattern continue, I’m not sure whatwe’re going to do,” said Ray Garibay, a statistician with the MarylandAgricultural Statistics Service.
Garibay said that groundwater levels are at a historic low and theonly thing to fix it will be steady rainfall.
The state’s two largest water providers, Baltimore’s Bureau of Waterand Wastewater and the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, each havestarted using additional reservoirs to supply more water.
Gov. Parris Glendening put Baltimore City under a drought emergency in August with Level 2 restrictions, forcing businesses and residents tobegin to conserve water.
Kurt Kocher, spokesman for the Baltimore water bureau, said thatwhile there is a sense of urgency to conserve water, it is not extremeyet.
“It hasn’t gotten to the point where we’re seeding clouds,” he said.
Kocher said that if drought conditions continue, the bureau’s 1.8million customers might be placed under Level 3 restrictions — althoughhe was not quite sure what those entailed.
WSSC spokesman Chuck Brown said that agency’s 1.6 million customers in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties are not under any restrictions,but the utility is urging people to “make changes in water habits thatwill last a lifetime.” Small acts like turning off the faucet whilebrushing teeth or using brooms to clean driveways and sidewalks can savehundreds of gallons of water, he said.
“Why people want to wash down driveways with a hose, I don’t know,”Brown said. “Don’t do that.”
One bright spot may be the uncertainty that is weather forecasting.After the fall, NOAA officials can only say that there are equal chancesof wet, dry and normal weather for the area during December, January andFebruary.
National Weather Service Director Jack Kelly said that new computershave made forecasting more accurate, but he acknowledged the difficultiesin predicting the weather for the next six months,
“I have trouble making a two day forecast and I am now going to make a prediction for fall and winter,” he said Thursday.