Area drought could persist beyond predicted rain

Great Miami River water levels dip among lowest recorded.

Drought conditions in much of the Miami Valley are impacting farmers and lawns, but the most striking display might be the dry riverbed poking above parts of the Great Miami River.

The Ohio River Forecast Center is measuring some of its lowest water levels on record. In Dayton, construction at RiverScape Metro Park blocks part of the river. The gauge location at I-75 and West Riverview Avenue measured at 23.15 feet — the lowest measurement recorded for that point in the river with a 41 foot flood stage.

Upstream, in Sidney, the river level was measured at 0.68 feet — the 10th lowest on record since at least the 1910s.

From above, the dryness is vividly seen from a Sky 7 drone photo of Carillon Historical Park’s green-brown lawn. But while the discoloration might be a cosmetic displeasure, the dryness is causing more material concerns for area farmers.

“If you don’t see your lawn growing, it means we’re not growing either,” said Montgomery County Agricultural Society President John Friedline, of Farmersville.

Friedline followed Storm Center 7 Meteorologist Carrieann Marit’s Daybreak forecast, which calls for rain this week.

“From what Carrieann said this morning, we’re down three inches below normal, so one inch isn’t going to help us a whole lot,” Friedline said. “But at least it’s better than nothing.”

Much of the area is in a drought, said Storm Center 7 Meteorologist Brett Collar. And despite rain forecasts, drought conditions might not improve.

“At this point, what we need is two days of light to moderate rain consistently falling,” he said.

“What we’re going to see over the coming days is most of the day being dry, but within that day in the afternoon and early evening there will be a couple of hours that will see pop-up showers and thunderstorms,” Collar said. “With those, we will see rain, but it’s going to be a heavy quick downpour, and that’s not what we need.”

Additionally, Collar said, “Anytime you dump a lot of water on a dry surface you could get a flooding issue.”

The Miami Valley last month saw the least rainfall since 2012 at 2.97 inches. That’s compared to the particularly wet July last year, which saw 4.6 inches of rainfall. On average, about 3.45 inches fall in July, according to the National Weather Service.

Last year, 27.8 inches of precipitation had accumulated by Aug. 1, according to the National Weather Service. But by Aug. 8 of this year, only 22.85 inches of precipitation have accumulated. Normally, we would have seen about 26.09 inches of rainfall by this time.

Areas of Clark and Champaign counties are among the hardest hit in the region, with many area farmers telling this newspaper the drought is leading to concerns of smaller crops and lower yields on everything from soybeans to berries.

Champaign County has only received about half its normal rainfall for this time of year — something that is negatively impacting corn and soybean farmers, said Amanda Douridas, extension educator for OSU Extension in Champaign County.

“I don’t think anyone’s going to have an exceptional year,” said Douridas.

Staff Writers Matt Sanctis and Kate Bartley and Chief Meteorologist Eric Elwell contributed reporting.

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