Drought lingers in southwest Ohio

The drought of 2012 lingers in Ohio, but the state climatologist said Tuesday that a promising weather pattern holds hope of relief.

Today, large portions of northern Ohio have emerged from drought. But the southwestern and central parts of the state need up to three-and-a-half inches of precipitation to rise from drought condition, said Jeffrey Rogers, state climatologist and a professor in Atmospheric and Climatic Studies at Ohio State University.

WHIO-TV Chief Meteorologist Jamie Simpson said that rain is forecast for every day from Friday to Tuesday. By the time it ends, the Dayton region could receive from 2 inches to as much as 4 inches of rain. That’ll help.

Precipitation so far this year in the Dayton area is 9 inches below normal.

The moisture deficit is highest around Cincinnati, which needs three-and-a-half inches of rain to get out of drought, but not so bad around Columbus, which needs about an inch, Rogers said.

Otherwise, the state could be set up for worse times in the growing season of 2013 because soil moisture will be so depleted. The 2012 drought wasn’t as bad as it could have been in Ohio because soil moisture going into the growing season was good, experts say.

“If current trends continue, soil moisture should recharge,” Rogers said. A reasonable winter snowfall from 20 to 30 inches will also help restore soil moisture, he added.

At A. Brown & Sons Nursery, 7701 Salem Avenue, Clayton, owner Mike Brown, 57, figures that in 2012 he’s used more irrigation to keep his trees healthy than any year previously. He’s worked at the 100-acre tree farm since age 7.

“It was one of the worst droughts - it was just so hot—in April, May and June, July, all hot and dry,” he said, adding that he’s looking forward to more rain this week. He’ll be selling Christmas trees until Dec. 24.

Record-setting watering to keep greenery healthy was the rule also at North Dayton Garden Center, 1309 Brandt Pike, said owner Rick Kossoudji. He’s been advising customers this year to keep close track of their new plantings to make sure they’re well-watered.

All 88 Ohio counties ended up eligible for federal drought disaster relief, said Steve Maurer, executive director for the USDA’s Farm Service Agency in Ohio. Nevertheless, the number of Ohio farmers applying so far for emergency loans has been low, he added.

Precipitation over the winter will be the key factor going into 2013 for farmers.

“We are in the midst of it until we can recharge soil moisture,” Maurer said.

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