By the time an unusually dry September drew to a close, moderate drought had spread across the southern half of West Virginia, leaving water flow in some streams at volumes more than 75 percent below long-term median flow.
All official climate monitoring sites in the state recorded less than 1 inch of rain during September and, as of Monday, Huntington, Beckley and Clarksburg were on track to set new historic rainfall records for the month.
The drought left the Greenbrier River at Durbin flowing at a rate of 3.06 cubic feet per second on Monday, compared to its long-term median rate of 30.0, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Downstream at Hilldale, in Summers County, Monday’s volume of 43.7 cubic feet per second was about one-fourth the median flow rate for the site.
Greenbrier County’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management posted notices on its Facebook page Sunday and Monday cautioning residents to “do your part to conserve our drinking water” to avoid the possible imposition of mandatory conservation measures. “Just look at the status of the Greenbrier River and its headwaters in Pocahontas County to see the current impact.”
Last week, the Lewisburg Municipal Water System urged its customers not to use water for non-essential purposes, like washing cars, watering lawns or gardens, filling swimming pools or operating pressure washers, since “the Greenbrier River is extremely low.”
The National Weather Service late last week elevated many counties in Southern West Virginia from a D0 “abnormally dry” rating to D1, “moderate drought.” The D1 designation indicates that streams, reservoirs and wells will run low and water shortages are developing or imminent.
The trend of unseasonably high temperatures with little chance of rain is expected to continue through Thursday across Southern West Virginia, according to the National Weather Service’s Charleston Forecast Office. For Charleston, highs are expected to be in the low 90s until Friday, when the projected high for the day is expected to drop 21 degrees from Thursday’s high to an autumnal 72 degrees.
The worsening drought conditions prompted the state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management to work with the West Virginia Department of Agriculture and National Weather Service and county emergency officials to coordinate a response.
Last week, a number of farmers in the southern counties reported difficulty in supplying water for their livestock, and received assistance from local response agencies, according to the DHSEM.