Scorching heat, dry spell hit Miami Valley

Temperatures have soared into the 90s this week as the area copes with 25 percent less rain than average, and local health officials have issued yet another air pollution advisory for today — the fifth in recent weeks.

The daily high temperature has been above average since June 12 and is forecast to reach or exceed 90 through Thursday. The average high for this time of year is in the low 80s.

While some parts of the Miami Valley received an inch or more of rain on Sunday and early Monday, others received much less.

Overall, 14.1 inches of rain or snow have fallen at Dayton International Airport since Jan. 1. That’s 5.5 inches below average.

Precipitation as measured at the airport has been well below average every month since February.

“We’re seeing that the deficits are starting to take their toll,” said Brian Fuchs, an author of the U.S. Drought Monitor and climatologist for the National Drought Mitigation Center. “We need rain or we’ll start seeing problems.”

Farmers are already experiencing problems, according to the Ohio Department of Agriculture. The warm and dry conditions are stressing livestock and hampering growth of three major state crops — corn, soybeans and hay.

The U.S. Drought Monitor shows that most of the northern half of the state is abnormally dry, while the northwest corner is in a moderate drought. Both Fuchs and WHIO-TV meteorologist Rich Wirdzek said similar conditions could creep into the Miami Valley.

For now, though, Wirdzek is not alarmed by above-average temperatures. “If the trend was constant, we’d be in a lot more trouble,” he said. “They would have to continue into July, and I don’t see that happening.”

Seth Binau, a meteorologist from the National Weather Service based in Wilmington, said a heat advisory would be issued only if the heat index exceeded 100 degrees. The heat index, which is measured hourly, takes into account human comfort and humidity rather than air temperature. Like Wirdzek, Binau is not concerned with the higher temperatures.

“It’s fairly normal aside from being just above average,” he said. “The humidity isn’t significant.”

The lack of rainfall and high temperatures has caused some lawns to brown. Joel Smith, operations manager of GreenTech Lawn and Irrigation, said irrigation systems are more in demand now that the dry season has come early.

Smith and Rodney Creech, owner of Lawn Plus, said that regular watering is the best possible thing for lawns in dry conditions. Creech says it is important to stick with a watering schedule, even in high temperatures, because irregularity can damage the roots. A brown lawn can be healthy if the roots are in good condition.

“You either have to be married to it and water it religiously or not do anything at all,” Creech said.

Angela Manuszak, project specialist for the Miami Conservancy District, said no one should be too concerned about the water supply. “We have plentiful ground water,” she said. The Dayton aquifer holds 1.5 trillion gallons of water.

Wirdzek said Thursday night could see some rainfall and there may be a cooling trend within the next couple of weeks, although that does not necessarily mean there will be rain.

Summer officially starts at 7:09 p.m. today.

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