No whining if it rains on your holiday plans this weekend — which it might. We’re parched, running about a 5-inch rainfall deficit compared to what’s normal this time of year.
Rivers are running low. Flora and fauna are struggling.
“Wildlife is really stressed,” said Deanna Orr, education coordinator at Virginia Living Museum in Newport News. “They can go longer without food, but like humans, they need consistent water — especially right now, when it’s baby season for a lot of them.”
Officially, much of Hampton Roads is merely classified as “abnormally dry” on the U.S. Drought Monitor, but the region’s western side — Suffolk, Isle of Wight, Surry — has slipped into “moderate drought” conditions.
Looking back at our soggy winter, “it’s amazing how quickly it can change,” said Eric Seymour, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Wakefield. “Two months ago, you couldn’t walk outside without squishing. Then all of the sudden the spigot got turned off.”
Some rain is in the region’s forecast for Memorial Day weekend — up to an inch, mostly Friday into Saturday.
“Of course, this time of year it’s usually showers and thunderstorms, so it’s typically not widespread rain — you get more in one area than the next,” Seymour said. “But any rain we can get will be a good thing.”
Until real relief rolls our way, though, there’ll be no shortage of tough times.
Farmers are watching fields wither or delaying planting, unable to sow seeds in bone-dry soil.
And with ditches and small streams empty, wildlife in our neighborhoods needs a hand, Orr says. Brown grass and shriveled berries provide little of their usual moisture. Worms and bugs are hard to get at in hardened ground.
“Everyone can help,” she said, “whether you have a yard or an apartment balcony,” she said.
Put dishes of water in shady areas. No buckets — animals perched on smooth edges can slip and drown.
Vary the water depths: five inches for bigger critters like squirrels or rabbits; three for butterflies and bees.
In the shallower dishes, place an exposed rock or brick so insects can lower themselves safely to the water without getting their wings wet.
Keep bird feeders full. Seeds may not be the best food for babies, but they’ll help parents keep up their strength for foraging.
With more showers on the horizon late next week, our arid conditions could improve.
In the meantime, thank — or blame — a front for the potential rain and cooler temperatures expected as the holiday weekend wears on.
Sunday’s high is forecast at 69 degrees; Monday’s is 72.
“The last thing most people want on a beach weekend is cool and cloudy,” Seymour said. “Unfortunately, it’s needed.”
Seymour says a gauge in Franklin on the Blackwater River is measuring about 3 feet below normal, which “affects the whole basin.”
Boaters should beware, with small craft advisories likely through Sunday. Severe thunderstorms are possible across the region.
Mike Rusnak, a Wakefield meteorologist, said swimmers should also be alert.
“There will probably end up being rough surf conditions at the beaches,“ he said, “so it’s probably not the best weekend to get into the water.”
No whining, remember?
Joanne Kimberlin, 757-446-2338, email@example.com
Staff writer Saleen Martin contributed to this report.