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Minnesota DNR climatologist said drought developed so quickly ,,,

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    Rain is relief for drought-stricken areas By MARTIGA LOHN Associated Press Writer ST. PAUL (AP) - As most of Minnesota dries up, government officials are
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 2, 2006
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      Rain is relief for drought-stricken areas

      By MARTIGA LOHN
      Associated Press Writer

      ST. PAUL (AP) - As most of Minnesota dries up, government officials
      are watching their graphs and charts line up with the landmark drought
      years of 1988 and 1976. It'll take a lot of rain - more than an inch a
      week - to keep 2006 from joining those years.

      At a state drought task force meeting Tuesday, map after map showed
      how quickly drought developed in parts of the state. Blue and green
      splotches showing above-average moisture in May gave way to swaths of
      red and brown by the end of the hottest July in 70 years.

      An L-shaped chunk of the state is the hardest hit, in a wide corridor
      descending south from Lake of the Woods, swinging around Mille Lacs
      Lake and heading eastward into Wisconsin. Water levels in some rivers
      and lakes are approaching historic lows, including the St. Croix River
      and Lake Winnibigoshish.

      "The timing of the lack of rain couldn't have been worse," said Greg
      Spoden, a climatologist with the Minnesota Department of Natural
      Resources who said drought developed so quickly that he didn't e-mail
      his boss about it until early July.

      Gov. Tim Pawlenty also formed an agricultural drought advisory
      committee to monitor the drought's impact and seek federal aid. The
      U.S. Department of Agriculture's State Emergency Board will meet
      Monday to prepare a federal disaster declaration request.

      In a letter asking for help from the U.S. Senate Appropriations
      Committee, Pawlenty described seeing "thousands of acres of withered
      wheat, sugar beets, soybeans and other crops" when he visited
      northwestern Minnesota last week.

      The only parts of the state not officially considered drought-stricken
      are southeastern and south-central Minnesota. There, conditions
      are "abnormally dry," or one level below drought.

      "The entire state is in a dry spell," Spoden said. "This has been
      quick to happen but it will be slow to heal."

      So far, state officials have pulled 83 surface water permits for golf
      courses, nurseries and farmers in hard-hit watersheds. That's a small
      fraction of about 1,200 such permits statewide.

      Meanwhile, Xcel Energy officials are monitoring Mississippi River
      levels because their Monticello nuclear power plant draws water for
      cooling from the river. If levels fall too low, the plant has to shut
      down.

      That hasn't happened yet but it's a worry, said Pat Flowers, Xcel's
      water quality manager.

      Representatives from Minneapolis and St. Paul told the task force that
      they have no immediate plans to impose watering restrictions, but
      they're watching the situation. The two cities, along with St. Cloud,
      draw most or all of their water from the Mississippi.

      If the drought worsens, watering bans are the most effective way to
      conserve water used by cities, because increased summer demand can
      boost municipal water use by up to four times, said Kent Lokkesmoe,
      who heads the task force and the DNR's waters division.

      Officials are operating under the second-highest level of a state
      drought response plan, which includes the possibility of emergency
      releases from reservoirs. If conditions worsen, they could declare an
      emergency and Minnesotans could see power brownouts, bottled water
      handouts and water being hauled around to meet the most pressing
      needs, according to the plan.

      Some relief may be in sight. The National Weather Service predicted
      heavy rain in southern Minnesota Tuesday evening and issued flash
      flood watches for 22 counties.

      Craig Edwards, the meteorologist in charge of the Chanhassen
      forecasting office, said another storm could develop early next week
      in northern Minnesota, and there's a chance of more showers and
      thunderstorms toward the end of next week.

      "It's going to take a lot of rain to get us caught up," Edwards
      said. "What you need is one of those all-night rains when you can hear
      the rain running down the gutter and you roll over in bed and say,
      `I'm glad I'm not going anywhere."'

      The drought of 1988 came on gradually after a dry winter and was
      mitigated by a wet fall. Spoden said this year's conditions more
      closely resemble the drought of 1976, which started out with a wetter
      spring and quickly deteriorated.

      ---

      On the Net:

      Minnesota Department of Natural Resources:
      http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/waters/index.html

      Climatology Working Group: http://www.climate.umn.edu/doc/journal/dry-
      summer-2006.htm

      National Weather Service: http://www.weather.gov/

      http://www.kstp.com/article/stories/s17971.html
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