By Carlie Kollath/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Drought conditions are slowly creeping into Northeast Mississippi.
As of this week, 78.8 percent of the state is either abnormally dry or in a declared drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
The six southernmost counties are getting hit the hardest and are classified as being in a D3 extreme drought.
The monitor ranks drought intensity from D0 to D4. D0 is the bellwether for a drought and means the area is abnormally dry.
As of last week, portions of Union, Pontotoc, Monroe, Clay, Chickasaw, Lafayette and Calhoun counties were classified as abnormally dry. The extreme southwestern tip of Lee County also is abnormally dry, according to the monitor.
Northeast Mississippi is faring better than the rest of the state right now because the region had a very wet April that saturated soils, said Luigo Romolo, the regional climatologist at the Southern Regional Climate Center in Baton Rouge, La.
But the skies dried up in May and things have been dry – and hot – since then.
For the year, Tupelo has had 24.09 inches of rain, which is 4.35 inches below the five-year average, according to Romolo.
Iuka and Pontotoc also are a few inches below average precipitation. Aberdeen is the most behind, lacking 8.69 inches.
Yet, several other towns in Northeast Mississippi have received more rainfall than usual. Corinth has had 4.04 inches more than the average, and Booneville and Oxford are up as well.
“Should the dryness continue, we could see drought conditions take hold in as little as one week or as long as three weeks,” Romolo said.
The high temperatures are accelerating the drought onset, Romolo said.
Since June 1, average temperatures have been anywhere from 6 degrees to 10 degrees above normal in the region.
Average daily temperatures for the region at this time of year are between 75 and 78 degrees, he said. For the month so far, average temperatures have been in the 80-degree to 85-degree range.
And he doesn’t expect the heat to let up any time soon.
“You are looking at showing above normal temperatures persisting through the next week, with slight chances of thunderstorms on each day,” he said.
Contact Carlie Kollath at (662) 678-1598 or firstname.lastname@example.org.