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Drought conditions improve across majority of Alabama

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — The Alabama Office of Water Resources reduced the drought declaration levels in six of the state’s nine regions this week after November saw an increased amount of rainfall.

Even with the improved conditions, however, much of the state is still well-below average amounts of rainfall when compared to historical data.

A part of the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, OWR divides the state into nine regions for the purposes of analyzing drought conditions, and reduced the drought level for all regions, save for three in the state’s mid–to-north regions, which include Tuscaloosa, Birmingham and Talladega.

Under the new drought declaration, regions six, eight and nine – which include Montgomery, Clay and Mobile counties, respectively – saw all drought declarations removed entirely. Regions one, five and seven – which include Madison, Clarke and Covington counties, respectively – had their drought declarations dropped from a drought warning to a drought watch.

“You can see September, October, November for Huntsville and Birmingham showing much below normal (rainfall),” said Michael Harper, water use program coordinator with ADECA.

“Montgomery was near-normal for November, and Mobile was almost perfectly normal for the month of November, so they’ve seen a significant improvement in rainfall for the month of November.”

An Office of Water Resources graph that shows year-to-date levels of rainfall for 2023 compared with historical averages.

Huntsville’s average amount of rainfall from January through November is just above 48 inches, though this year, it received just above 39 inches of rain through November, more than nine inches of rain below average. Similarly, Birmingham experienced nearly eight inches less than average through November, and Mobile, 11 inches less than average.

Montgomery, the one exception, saw roughly the average amount of rainfall from January through November.

From Birmingham to the state’s eastern border, a fuel advisory also remains in effect due to the dry conditions, meaning extra safety precautions are required for controlled burns.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, as of Thursday, 14.4% of the state remains in an extreme drought; 32.1% in a severe drought, 19.5% in a moderate drought, and 24.3% is abnormally dry. Yet despite the abnormally dry conditions, drought experts, such as Gary Springston, Water Supply Manager for the Tennessee Valley Authority, say there’s a reason to be hopeful things will improve by the end of the year.

“Overall, things have really picked up in the last 30 days, so right now we’re cautiously optimistic,” he said during the OWR meeting. “Hopefully things keep improving.”

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