From wet to dry — quickly

Published 6:17 pm Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Despite showers Tuesday, no end of dry spell seen any time soon

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

There was a surprising substance on the ground Tuesday morning. Rain water. 

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After a month of no precipitation, the sky finally yielded a few drops. 

The forecast calls for a chance of some more today, but that’s it through the rest of the week.  

However, there is no real relief in sight to the persistent dry conditions in the Isle of Wight County area, according to Meteorologist Timothy Gingrich with the National Weather Service in Wakefield. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

The area is considered to be under abnormally dry conditions, said Gingrich, adding that some cooler temperatures — that is, below 90 degrees — are on the way. 

As for rain, “It doesn’t look very good in the next few weeks,” he said. 

Meanwhile, it appears that some trees are succumbing to the stress, along with shrubs and ornamentals. Even the weeds are wilting.

For farmers, however, the lack rain came at the end of the season, making harvest easier, said farmer Rex Alphin.  

Alphin said he was able to dig up and pick his peanut crop without any rain on them, and his farm finished up the crop by the end of September. 

Usually, it’s not until mid-October, he said.

Too much moisture can cause disease in peanuts. 

“If I were to pick a time for it to be good and dry this would be the time to have it,” said Alphin, adding that the lack of rain has been good for the cotton crop too.

Normally farmers are on the lookout for tropical storms and hurricanes in September, but that didn’t happen, he said. Heavy rains and wind can degrade cotton bolls. 

The last significant rain across the area was Hurricane Dorian on Sept. 7, and that was less than two-inches. It hadn’t rained since except for the shower on Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service.

On the flip side, the lack of rain is impacting pasture grass for cows and late season soybeans, said farmer Dee Dee Darden. 

“It’s just so dry. Everything is just dust and powder,” she said.

However, Darden’s pumpkin crop did well. 

“They can take too much dry than too much water,” she said.

In Smithfield, Mayor Carter Williams is working to deploy the town’s landscapers, public works employees and the fire department to water shrubs, plants and trees along Main Street and at Windsor Castle Park. 

“We need something with a lot of water,” said Williams about using the fire department. Williams said that Smithfield got less than an inch of rain from Dorian and “we haven’t had a drop since.” 

That was a month ago. 

Ironically, last year at this time, some farmers, foresters and gardeners were struggling with too much rain. By October 2018, the amount of rainfall was 10-14 inches above normal for the year. 

As of Oct. 4, the area was 1.23 inches above normal since January. 

Meanwhile, a small area of southwest and the Piedmont area of Virginia are considered in a moderate drought, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Climate Prediction Center. 

Temperatures for the next three months are predicted to be above normal, but that is coupled with a chance of above normal precipitation.  {/mprestriction}