WEST MICHIGAN — After a relatively dry winter, spring has started on the same note. While this may be good for water levels in local rivers and lakes, our growing season may suffer if it continues.
Once April is over, we will have another month with below-normal precipitation. This month will end with only about half of the typical precipitation. That would make eight in the last twelve months. In those twelve months, going back to last spring, we are about six inches below average when it comes to rain and melted snow.
The extended dry spell has now placed nearly all of the Lower Peninsula in a moderate drought. The only counties with a few locations still holding on to abnormally dry conditions are Berrien, Cass and St. Joseph Counties. The Upper Peninsula is also dealing with abnormally dry to moderate drought conditions. This, however, is not as extensive as the Lower Peninsula, only impacting locations from Munising to Drummond Island.
While there will of course be negative impacts as a result of the drought, there are also some favorable impacts that are already being seen. The biggest positive has been that local lake levels have been steadily receding from their record high levels in recent years. Lake Michigan is down about a foot since this time last year. On the flip side, there are plenty of issues already popping up as a result of the lack of water.
"One bad thing with the drought, especially this time of the year, is that vegetation is still greening up," says NWS Meteorologist Nathan Jeruzal. "Until it greens up, fire danger is a serious problem. A lack of water will also impact farmers as we get into the growing season."
While this may sound bad for us going into the summer, it would not take much for us to get out of the drought, because we are only in a level-one drought. There are four levels of drought that the area could be in. Thankfully, it would not take a ton of rain to relieve our drought conditions. However, if we remain dry for several more months, then we could be looking at some more significant issues.
Until we see some wet weather returning, make sure to use water efficiently, avoid tossing cigarette butts, and completely put out any fires you make.
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