Make no mistake, it’s dry out there.
With the exception of May and early June, the Capital Region has remained drier than normal this year, according to the National Weather Service in Albany. The total amount of rainfall recorded so far is about 3 inches less than normal — a fact that is evident by the brown grass throughout the area.
Those dry conditions are also exacerbated by the hot start to summer. The last two weeks of June had four days where the mercury rose above 90 degrees and the heat hasn’t abated much.
“It’s been quite a bit drier and it’s been warmer as well,” said Kevin Lipton, a meteorologist with the weather service.
So far this year, the Capital Region has received 15.9 inches of precipitation. That is in start contrast to the 24.4-inch year-to-date total recorded in 2011 and the 18.8-inch historical average for this time of year.
Still, the area and state remain have skipped drought conditions. The National Drought Mitigation Center reported abnormally dry conditions in parts of 11 counties across the state, including sections of Montgomery and Schoharie counties.
“If this does continue through the summer months, it could raise some concerns for drought conditions,” Lipton said.
The forecast shows a chance of isolated thunderstorms or showers today and perhaps later in the week. Only there is no anticipation of a prolonged rain that would replenish area reservoirs and ease the dry conditions. “Any rain that we get doesn’t seem like it will be a widespread soaking rain, which is what we need,” he said.
In Rotterdam, the dearth of rain prompted town officials to prohibit any unnecessary water usage over a 72-hour period ending Friday. Supervisor Harry Buffardi said the restriction over the Fourth of July is meant as a precaution so the town can replenish some of the reserves.
“They were down low enough for several days to cause concern,” he said Tuesday.
The effect of the dry weather has also caused the level of the Great Sacandaga Lake to drop slightly below its target elevation at the Conklingville Dam in Hadley. The flood-control reservoir was measuring roughly 9 inches lower than its optimal level for this time of year, said Michael Clark, the executive director of the Hudson River-Black River Regulating District.
“We are having a dry period right now,” he said.
The dam was releasing about 1,200 cubic feet of water per second Tuesday. In contrast, the regulating district was monitoring 400 cubic feet of water per second entering the lake from the Sacandaga River in the Hamilton County town of Hope.
Clark said the disparity is likely imperceptible at the homes and beaches around the lake. Any rain event occurring in the coming weeks could easily set the lake back to its standard summer elevation.
“A good series of storms or a large storm event can easily exceed the target elevation,” he said.
Dry conditions have also prompted Saratoga Springs to start up auxiliary pumps at Bog Meadow to help replenish Loughberry Lake, the city’s main reservoir. Public Works Commissioner Anthony “Skip” Scirocco said the practice is used during the summer and the city’s water supply has generally been plentiful enough to avoid any restrictions over the past seven years.
“If it keeps up like this you’ll definitely see an issue,” he said.
Homeowners and gardeners hoping to avoid brown lawns and wilting plants may be tempted to keep the sprinkler on for long spells during dry times. But they may not need to water nearly as much as they think.
Cornell Cooperative Extension educator David Chinery said most vegetable gardens only need watering twice a week to prevent wilting. Lawns, though they may brown in the heat and dry weather, can typically withstand up to six weeks without water.
Chinery said watering too frequently during the hot, humid months of summer usually leads to greater troubles. And watering during the late afternoon or evening hours can especially lead to problems with a number of diseases that affect plants.
“When you get a lot of moisture and heat, it’s a good combination for problems,” he said.
The dry weather is also making farming a bit more arduous than usual. Richard Ball, the owner of Schoharie Valley Farms, said the lack of rain has meant extra time spent irrigating his fields.
But the warmer-than-normal weather during the spring also allowed Ball to start crops earlier. He’s also willing to take the dry conditions over the inundation that came with the devastating storms late last summer.
“If I have the choice of being too dry or too wet, I’ll take too dry, he said. “Especially after last year.”