Drought Information Statement
Issued by NWS Huntsville, AL
AXUS74 KHUN 232006
Drought Information Statement
National Weather Service Huntsville AL
306 PM CDT Thu Mar 23 2017
...Some improvement in drought conditions noted across the area,
especially in Southern Middle Tennessee and in far Northern Alabama...
According to the Drought Monitor valid Tuesday, March 21, 2017,
Severe Drought (D2) Conditions remain across southern portions of
DeKalb and Marshall Counties and southern and central Cullman County.
The Severe Drought conditions in parts of northern and eastern
DeKalb County have been changed to Moderate Drought (D1) and
Abnormally Dry Conditions (D0). Compared to this time last week, a
swath of Abnormally Dry Conditions includes Northern/Eastern portions
of Lauderdale, Limestone, Madison, and much of Jackson Counties. Tiny
slivers are also included of far northeastern Marshall and the
northern third of Dekalb Counties. Between there and the Severe
Drought (D2) conditions in far southern portions of the area,
Moderate Drought (D1) Conditions encompasses the remainder of the
area, including much of Lauderdale, all of Colbert/Franklin/Lawrence,
and Morgan counties. Portions of Limestone, Madison, Jackson,
Marshall, Dekalb, and Cullman Counties are also included.
Lincoln, Moore, and Franklin Counties in Southern Middle Tennessee
are noted as having Abnormally Dry (D0) Conditions, and have
therefore been formally removed from the Drought Statement this week.
They will be added back in if conditions deteriorate further into D2
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 remember 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, with the exception of Cullman
County, in a Drought Advisory per the latest update on February 9th.
Cullman County is in a Drought Watch.
The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) had been in a State
of Emergency due to the dry conditions and wildfires that had taken
place, especially in southeastern parts of the state late last year.
However, the State of Emergency due to the drought and wildfires was
lifted earlier this year.
Since the primary growing season has not begun yet in the region,
Crop and Progress Condition Reports are not currently being issued
from the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service. These
reports are expected to resume in April. Nevertheless, D3 and D4
drought conditions during the growing season last year resulted in
Disaster Declarations for all of the counties in the Huntsville CWA
as Primary Natural Disaster Areas due to damages/losses caused by
the recent drought. This includes the counties of Colbert, Cullman,
Dekalb, Franklin (AL), Franklin (TN), Jackson, Lauderdale, Lincoln,
Madison, Marshall, Moore, Morgan, Lawrence, and Limestone.
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 State of Tennessee rescinded their burn ban on December 19,
2016. There are no Commissioner of Agriculture Burn Bans currently
in effect in the state. However, a Debris Burning Permit from the
Tennessee Department of Agriculture Division of Forestry is required
through May 15, 2017 to burn leaf and brush piles for residents in
Franklin, Lincoln, and Moore Counties. Citizens may obtain Burn
Permits by going to www.burnsafetn.org.
The Keetch-Byram Drought Index (KBDI) available from the U.S. Forest
Service Wildland Fire Assessment System shows that values are below
300 across the entire region.
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 in adjacent areas. Recently,
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.
So far through mid-March, temperatures have averaged below normal,
with a recent trend of above-normal temperatures this week.
Temperatures were nearly 20 degrees above normal (highs in the middle
80s) on Tuesday ahead of a complex of thunderstorms and associated
cold front. This dropped temperatures 15-20 degrees for Wednesday,
with highs only climbing into the lower 60s. Precipitation has been
mixed across the area during the month of March, with amounts
generally near to above normal in northwestern Alabama and near to
below normal in northeastern Alabama. In southern middle Tennessee,
amounts have generally been near normal.
During the month of February, temperatures averaged well above
normal, while precipitation was below normal at nearly all
locations. This February finished as the warmest on record at
Huntsville and Muscle Shoals, and was among the top 10 warmest at
most other observing stations in the area. Precipitation deficits
were highest in the west, where amounts of two to four inches below
normal were common across nearly all of Lauderdale, Colbert,
Franklin and Lawrence Counties. Precipitation amounts were generally
one to two inches below normal in the remainder of the area for
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 deficits are around two to six
inches across much of the area, with the exception of northeastern
Alabama, where precipitation amounts are near normal. Some locations
in central Sand Mountain even show slightly above normal
precipitation during the last three months. On 180-day time scales
(going back to mid September), precipitation deficits are still
around eight to twelve inches across large portions of the
area...especially coincident with the Severe Drought designated
areas, but also across much of northwestern Alabama. Precipitation
deficits are still around four to eight inches across much of
northeastern Alabama and in some locations in southern middle
Tennessee. The highest precipitation deficits are in portions of
Cullman, Marshall, Franklin (TN), Lawrence, Colbert, Lauderdale and
Longer-term 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 this past 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. From March 16th last year to March 15th
this year, temperatures are the warmest on record at both Huntsville
and Muscle Shoals. This same period was also the warmest on record
at locations such as Crossville, Fayetteville, Guntersville, and
Temperatures have been well above normal for the past few days, with
a brief drop on Wednesday to more seasonable values in the lower 60s.
A warming trend is expected through the weekend ahead of several
systems set to affect the area Saturday, again Monday, and yet again
a few days later. Only brief temperature swings are expected in the
wake of each system.
Areas that are affected by these thunderstorms will receive higher
rainfall amounts over the course of the next week, with several
locations expected to be at or above normal for the month as a
result. Overall, though, precipitation amounts are expected to be
close to normal or slightly above, depending on the evolution of the
thunderstorms over the next 7 days.
The Outlook for Week Two (March 31st to April 6th) from the Climate
Prediction Center (CPC) moderately to strongly favors above normal
temperatures and precipitation for the area.
The Monthly Outlook for April from the CPC moderately favors above
normal temperatures, with equal chances for below, near or above
The latest Seasonal Outlook from the CPC for the April through June
period from the CPC strongly favors above normal temperatures, with
equal chances for below, near or above normal precipitation.
The latest Seasonal Drought Outlook from the CPC valid for the
period from March 16, 2017 through June 30, 2017 indicates that
drought conditions are likely to end in portions of northern and
northwestern Alabama and southern middle Tennessee, while drought
conditions are expected to remain but improve in southern and
eastern portions of the area.
Hydrologic Summary and Outlook...
River and creek streamflows have been significantly affected by the
prolonged drought conditions, especially from last Fall through the
Winter. However, streamflow conditions have improved markedly over
the last couple of weeks. Recent rainfall earlier this week has also
contributed to higher values upwards of 40-60% (7-day averaged
streamflow) in northeastern and north central Alabama and in southern
middle Tennessee. Streamflows are a little lower compared to
climatology in western areas, but have certainly improved recently.
Lake and river levels along the heavily regulated Tennessee River
system have largely been unaffected by drought conditions over the
last year and most are operating within or close to normal pool
levels, although Pickwick and Wheeler lakes are operating slightly
above their guide curves for this time of year. Tims Ford Lake and
Lewis Smith Lakes also continue to operate above their respective
guide curves for this time of year. The Cedar Creek Project in
Northwestern Alabama (including Bear, Little Bear, and Cedar Creek)
are all operating below their Flood Guide Curves for this time of
According to the CPC, the latest Daily Soil Moisture rankings
continue to indicate low soil moisture values for this time of year.
As of March 22nd, soil moisture rankings were generally around the
1st to 5th percentiles across much of northeastern Alabama and a
small part of northwestern Alabama, and only in the 5th to 10th
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 have remained
below average since that time. Water levels climbed steadily from
late January into mid-February, but have since leveled off. Water
depth values remain about five feet below the median daily value.
Groundwater levels at the USGS well site in Lawrence County declined
rapidly from early September into late November, but rose sharply
after heavy rainfall in late November into early December. Since
early December, well water depths at this location have been near
The outlook is for near steady to slight improvement in soil
moisture conditions and streamflows over the next week due to
expectations for above normal precipitation and temperatures.
Next issuance date...
The next Drought Statement will be issued Thursday, March 30, 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