As drought conditions continue to worsen and extreme heat persists across the 10-county area surrounding and including Howell County, officials are asking residents to limit power and water consumption and agricultural specialists work to inform farmers about best practices in such harsh conditions.
The city of West Plains and Howell-Oregon Electric Cooperative have asked consumers to limit their electricity usage; additionally, the city continues to ask residents to conserve water as one well remains out of service. An article on Page 2 of today’s Quill outlines both requests.
The reminder was prompted by National Weather Service forecasts calling for potentially record-breaking temperatures through the weekend.
Already this week, one record has been broken: Wednesday’s high temperature of 104 in West Plains broke the previous record of 101 degrees set in 1964, said officials with NWS in Springfield.
Today’s record high of 99 degrees was set in 2005. The forecast for today calls for a high of 102 degrees.
Saturday and Sunday won’t be any cooler, say weather officials, who called excessive heat and fire danger “the main obvious concerns” in a forecast discussion issued Thursday morning.
With highs around 102 expected both days and overnight lows of about 74 degrees, heat advisories or warnings are expected. In addition, slightly stronger winds will increase the potential for any fires to spread, elevating the fire risk for the area to high.
Looking into next week, the NWS says it is monitoring weather models that suggest a possibility for rain Tuesday or Wednesday, but “with only limited relief of the hot/dry weather.”
The U.S. Drought Monitor published by the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows worsening drought conditions with the southern half of Howell County, most of Oregon County and the extreme southeast portion of Shannon County now designated as areas of extreme drought, or D3 level. In addition, in Arkansas, 79% of Fulton County, about a fifth of Sharp County and a sliver of the northeast corner of Baxter County are in extreme drought.
Severe drought affects the remainder of Howell all contiguous counties, including Izard County in Arkansas.
In extreme drought, NIDIS explains, corn is high in nitrates, major crop loss is reported, hay and water for cattle is limited, hay is expensive and producers are hauling water. Burn bans are common and fires spread easily. Ponds are dried, wells are drying, large lakes and reservoirs are extremely low and mandatory water restrictions are implemented.
Howell County continues to be under a burn ban which was issued July 11.
Severe drought is marked by large, deep soil cracks, corn and soybeans cut for silage, smaller produce and lower yields and trees in stress. Surface water levels are very low, low reservoirs are noticeable and voluntary city water restrictions are requested.
According to a special statement issued by NWS officials on Thursday, conditions worsened quickly as a result of above-normal temperatures, below-normal precipitation and increased evaporation, which caused “flash drought” conditions, or a rapid onset of drought.
The hot and dry weather is expected to continue through the middle of next week, but the long-term outlook for the next eight to 14 days shows the possibility of a transition to more rain, amounts of which could be near normal to above normal in the first week of August.
The University of Missouri will host a workshop Tuesday for farmers, offering tips and strategies to get farms through the drought. The seminar will be held at the Howell County Extension Center, 1376 Bill Virdon Blvd. in West Plains, with registration beginning at 5 p.m.
Preregistration must be completed by 5 p.m. today due to limited seating. To sign up or fro more information call the extension center, 417-256-2391.
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