Drought Information Statement
Issued by NWS Huntsville, AL
AXUS74 KHUN 271550
Drought Information Statement
National Weather Service Huntsville AL
1050 AM CDT Thu Apr 27 2017
According to the Drought Monitor valid Tuesday, April 25, 2017,
Severe Drought (D2) Conditions remain only in place for a tiny sliver
of extreme southern/southwestern portions of Cullman County.
Elsewhere, drought conditions were again scaled back for much of the
region. The Moderate Drought (D1) conditions that covered much of
Northwest Alabama now only cover a small portion of southwestern
Franklin County and much of Cullman County. It was formally removed
from Lauderdale, Colbert, Limestone, Lawrence, and Morgan Counties.
In its place, Abnormally Dry (D0) conditions now cover these
aforementioned counties, as well as southern portions of Madison,
Jackson, and Dekalb Counties, as well as all of Marshall County. The
biggest improvement occurred over Northeastern Alabama where Drought
Designations were completely removed (once the hardest-hit locations
in the Drought this past Fall/Winter). No designations are formally
included in Southern Middle Tennessee (Lincoln, Franklin, and Moore),
along with the vast majority of Jackson and Dekalb Counties.
Note: Precipitation and other conditions (streamflows, soil
moisture,etc.) that determine drought designations each week for the
U.S. Drought Monitor are based on data that end at 6AM CST each
Tuesday. So, any precipitation that falls after the 6AM cutoff is
not factored into designations for that week, but will of course be
factored into designations for the following weekly issuance. Also,
it`s important to note that the designation of drought categories is
a multi-faceted process that includes numerous data from a variety
of physical systems on different space and time scales, which
include precipitation, soil moisture, streamflows, groundwater, and
various drought indices, just to name a few.
Summary of Impacts...
State and local declarations: The Alabama Department of Economic and
Community Affairs (ADECA) Office of Water Resources placed all of
the counties in the Huntsville CWA in a Drought Advisory per the
latest update on April 19th.
Crop and Progress Condition Reports from the USDA National
Agricultural Statistics Service have now resumed for the primary
growing season. In the latest report, issued April 3rd, the Farm
Service Agency (FSA) in Lawrence County reported that due to drought
conditions and continual overgrazing, pasture conditions have
remained at fair levels across the county. It was also reported that
wheat conditions appeared to be good, and although there was some
concern from the recent freeze, no signs of damage have been
Fire Danger Impacts...
Currently, there are no burn restrictions from the Alabama Forestry
Commission (AFC). Nevertheless, the AFC advises anyone conducting
outdoor burning to follow safety precautions. Any fire more than a
quarter acre in size or within 25 feet of a forested area requires a
permit from the AFC.
The Keetch-Byram Drought Index (KBDI) available from the U.S. Forest
Service Wildland Fire Assessment System shows that values are below
300 across much of the region, with the exception of portions of
Northern Jackson County in Northeastern Alabama.
During the height of the drought last Fall, local news reported that
many home foundation repair businesses in Northern Alabama were busy
because dry conditions had caused large cracks and other damage to
home foundations. Also, county officials especially in northwestern
Alabama reported that large numbers of cracks had appeared on
roadways due to the drought. This included portions of the Natchez
Trace Parkway in northwestern Alabama and adjacent areas. On January
24, 2017, the County Engineer of Colbert County reported that
drought damage to roads was continuing and that a crack sealing
machine would be required to repair the cracks.
Hay and forage were reported to be in short supply across parts of
the state, as drought conditions led many farmers to postpone or
even skip the planting of winter grazing. Alabama farmers have been
purchasing hay from across the Southeast to feed livestock,
especially earlier this year.
On Feb 13, 2017, the Alabama Forestry Commission issued a press
release stating that drought-plagued trees were continuing to die
across the state. Then, forestry professionals from across the state
of Alabama met to discuss the issue. In a press release dated March
7th, the Alabama Forestry Commission asserted again that large
numbers of pine and hardwood trees were dying across the state as a
direct result of the drought. Ground inspection from surveys
indicated that the drought weakened trees sufficiently to make them
more susceptible to infestation and damage by a range of pests, such
as the southern pine beetle. The Alabama Forest Commission stated
that more areal and ground surveys will be conducted to assess the
damage and beetle activity.
Over the last week, temperatures have been on a roller-coaster of
sorts. Late last week, ahead of an approaching cold front,
temperatures across the area soared into the upper 80s to near 90
degrees. After a line of strong to severe storms crossed the area on
Saturday, temperatures tumbled into the lower 60s for highs on
Sunday. Temps ahead of the cold front were 10-15 degrees above
normal, and temps in the wake of the front were about 10 degrees
below normal for this time of year.
Precipitation over the past week has generally been below normal,
aside from the line of storms Saturday that brought around an inch of
rainfall to the region. Aside from that rainfall event, it didn`t
rain much more than a few hundredths over the past 7 days. For
reference, normal weekly rainfall for this time of year is around 1
to 1.25 inches.
Area rivers and creeks were swollen after the rainfall on Saturday,
with higher rainfall amounts occurring well North/East of the local
area. These locations feed the Tennessee River, which is now
experiencing above normal flows from all of the rainfall over the
weekend. Several Flood Warnings (FLW) and Rapid Rise Statements (RVS)
were needed by Monday.
During the month of March, temperatures averaged above normal. The
first ten days of the month experienced near to slightly above
normal temperatures, but a dramatic pattern change brought much
below normal temperatures to the region from the 11th through the
16th. Nearly all locations experienced a hard freeze on the mornings
of the 15th and 16th before a warming trend began. Temperatures were
significantly above normal generally from March 20th through the end
of the month. Monthly average temperatures finished around two
degrees above normal. Precipitation was above normal for most
locations during the month of March, especially in parts of Franklin
(AL) and Colbert Counties, eastward through the Bankhead National
Forest and southern Morgan County, across much of DeKalb and eastern
Marshall, and from northwestern Jackson County into southern Middle
Tennessee. Meanwhile, rainfall was a little below normal in parts of
southern Limestone and southwestern Madison Counties (including
Huntsville International Airport), western Lauderdale, and in central
and southern portions of Cullman County.
Longer-term precipitation deficits still remain, which is part of
the reason for the continuing drought designations across the area.
On 90-day timescales, precipitation amounts are around two to four
inches below normal across parts of northwestern Alabama, while
surpluses generally exist in northeastern Alabama. On 180-day time
scales (going back to early October), precipitation is still around
eight inches below normal across parts of Cullman County, and
especially in western Lauderdale and Colbert Counties. Many areas
still have precipitation deficits around two to eight inches
elsewhere in northwestern and north central Alabama.
Temperatures have averaged well above normal for most of the last
year which helped lead to the development and sustenance of drought
conditions. Average temperatures during the fall and winter ranked
as the warmest on record at Huntsville, while fall was also warmest
on record at Muscle Shoals, but winter ranked as the 2nd warmest on
record there. Over the last 365 days, temperatures are well above
normal and are in fact the warmest on record for any such period in
the historical record at several locations in our area, including,
but not limited to: Huntsville, Muscle Shoals, Belle Mina,
Crossville, Guntersville, Scottsboro, Valley Head, and Fayetteville.
Temperatures are expected to climb back into the upper 80s to near
90 again this weekend to end the month of April, with values about
10-15 degrees above normal for this time of year. Precipitation is
expected to be spotty during this time, with chances for
showers/storms almost daily (just not a high coverage of
convection). Late this weekend, another line of storms will push
across the area, bringing additional chances for more widespread
showers and storms, and rainfall amounts likely around an inch or
more. Aside from that, there area no other chances for significant
precipitation until maybe late next week as another system moves
across the region.
The Outlook for early May favors below normal temperatures and above
normal precipitation for Northern Alabama and Southern Middle
Tennessee. The Outlook for Week Two (May 4th through May 10th) from
the Climate Prediction Center (CPC) moderately favors below normal
temperatures across the region. Above normal precipitation is
favored for all of the area during this time.
The Monthly Outlook for May from the CPC moderately favors above
normal temperatures and favors equal chances for above, below, or
near normal rainfall amounts.
The latest Seasonal Outlook from the CPC for the May through July
period from the CPC strongly favors above normal temperatures, with
equal chances for below, near or above normal precipitation.
Hydrologic Summary and Outlook...
Before the rainfall that was received last weekend, river and creek
streamflows were significantly lower than normal for this time of
year. This was especially true from last Fall through the Winter.
That said, after the rainfall last weekend, streamflows climbed to
above normal values, warranting the need for both a few Flood
Warnings and Rapid Rise Statements at several sites across the area.
This was also due to heavier rainfall that occurred in the headwaters
of the Tennessee River (in portions of Eastern Tennessee), and this
all flowed downstream into our area, heightening the flooding (albeit
minor) that occurred.
7-day streamflow averages across the area vary, but the vast majority
are well above normal for this time of year. Aside from the Big Nance
Creek at Courtland averaging about 47% of normal, several sites are
well above normal for this time of year:
Paint Rock River at Woodville 238%
Elk River at Prospect, TN 206%
Limestone Creek near Athens190%
Lake and river levels along the heavily regulated Tennessee River
system have largely been unaffected by drought conditions over the
last year. Lakes along the Tennessee River channel are, in fact,
running a little over the normal guide curve for this time of year,
including Guntersville, Wheeler, Wilson and Pickwick Lakes. Tims Ford
Lake, Bear Creek Lake and Smith Lakes are also running a little
ahead of their normal guide curves for this time of year.
According to the CPC, the latest Daily Soil Moisture rankings
continue to indicate low soil moisture values for this time of year.
As of April 26th, soil moisture rankings were generally around the
5th to 10th percentiles in southern/eastern portions of the area
(Southern Cullman, Marshall, and Dekalb Counties), with values
plummeting into the 1st to 5th percentiles just south of these
locations. Elsewhere across the area, soil moisture values are
between the 10th and 20th percentiles.
The U.S. Geological Survey groundwater well site in Cullman County
shows that groundwater levels fell below the daily median value
during the March to late April period last year and remained below
average until late March. Groundwater levels finally rose to above
the average daily value on March 30th, peaking into early April.
Given the slightly drier rainfall pattern in place for much of the
month, values have since fallen back below normal values.
Groundwater levels at the USGS well site in Lawrence County declined
rapidly from early September into late November last year, but rose
sharply after heavy rainfall in late November into early December.
Since early March, well water depths at this location have been
fairly consistently near to above normal.
The outlook for the next week is for slightly degraded conditions for
much of the area, aside from two systems; one late this weekend and
another later next week. Dry conditions will prevail between these
systems, with around an inch or less of rainfall expected this
weekend, and at least half that amount expected with the system later
next week. Ahead of these systems, strong southerly flow will aid in
drying out the soils across the area, with a loss of soil moisture
Next issuance date...
The next Drought Statement will be issued Thursday, May 11th, 2017.
Related Web Sites...(use lower case)
U.S. Drought Monitor webpage: http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu
Climate Prediction Center: http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov
For information about Alabama Drought Declarations, visit:
For information from the Alabama Forestry Commission, visit:
Wildfire information from the Alabama Forestry Commission:
Radar estimated precipitation amounts can be obtained here:
Streamflows are obtained from the USGS here:
Lake levels for the Tennessee River can be obtained here:
USGS groundwater well site information for Alabama:
Some data used in this statement were provided by the U.S.
of Agriculture, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Tennessee Valley
Authority, and the States of Alabama and Tennessee.
Questions or Comments...
For questions or comments on the drought, please contact:
National Weather Service Huntsville
320A Sparkman Drive
Huntsville, AL 35805