Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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15 Adar 5762 - February 27, 2002 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Observations: Big Drought on East Coast

by Yated Ne'eman Staff

A record-setting drought has settled over the New York region and much of the East Coast. The Eastern Seaboard of the US is having a dry fall and winter, the latest dry seasons in a dry spell that began in 1998. The problem is almost everywhere, from Georgia in the south to Maine in the north.

The dry months that began in the summer have stretched into winter. The groundwater supply is normally built up in the winter and begins to subside in the spring when new plants soak it up.

New York City and most New Jersey counties have been under a drought warning since late January. The Delaware River Basin Commission, which controls Delaware River water used by 20 million people, issued a drought emergency in December that reduces allotments for New York City and the four states sharing the supply. New York City gets about half of its water from the Delaware River.

The Potomac River around Washington, D.C. has been setting records for low water. Officials in Orange County, N.Y., say the drought is the worst there in 30 years, while New Jersey is reporting its driest January and February since 1895.

The East Coast is not the only part of the country with not enough precipitation. The lingering effects of a multiyear drought are still affecting the Mountain States and Southern California. The Northwest and the Mississippi Valley, however, have received plenty of water.

Hydrologists say that the full effect of the drought will not be felt for five more weeks, when lawns, trees and crops begin to search for moisture in the dry earth.

The Climate Prediction Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has a Drought Severity Index that shows conditions of moderate to severe drought up the Atlantic Coast, from the Florida line to the northern tip of Maine. Eastern Pennsylvania, the Hudson River Valley, all of Long Island and most of New England are in the severe drought category, meaning that one would be expected once in 10 years. New Jersey south of the Raritan River and a wide band covering most of inland and northern Maine are listed on the index as suffering extreme drought, expected only once in 20 years.

It is not just farmers who have grounds for worry. Drought has already been blamed for pine beetle infestations along the Atlantic Coast, and inadequate water in the soil will stunt the growth of shrubs and bushes.

Wildlife also suffers. Lowered water levels in ponds and streams expose aquatic plants to freezing, and the loss of those plants, in turn, affects insect larvae and dragonfly nymphs that depend on them.

A spokesman for a fishing group said that the fishing in New York State would probably be poor for several years. The water is too low for the trout to breed properly.

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