Too Much Rain May Not Help Dry Conditions

By: Elizabeth Donatelli
By: Elizabeth Donatelli

October 7, 2005

Rain should be good news for this year's fire season, but it might not be as helpful as we originally hoped. You would think that any rain at this point is good rain, but that might not be the case.

The problem isn't the rain; it's how much we are getting in such a short period of time. It's been raining non-stop since this morning, but this one downpour won't help fire conditions as much as you may think.

"That's the key; it's been raining all day. To get six or seven inches in an hour is more damaging than beneficial, from our standpoint. A good rainfall over a long period of time is what's really going to help," said Fred Turck of the Department of Forestry.

We're on our way to a long rainfall today, but it's not being spread out over time. In the month of September, the average rainfall is about 4.5 inches, but we didn't receive even one full inch.

"Such a deficit of rainfall ever since late summer into early fall [means] we're still looking at what could potentially be a pretty significant active fire season," Turck said.

The problem with too much rain too quickly is that the leaves and trees don't have enough time to soak it up.

"The fuels which is the dead trees and leaves [are there] to absorb more of the moisture. If it comes really fast it's just going to runoff into the drainages and then not be as beneficial," said Turck.

While this rain dampens the ground, many worry it may stay a dry season for the rest of the year.

"All indications are that over a long period of time, which we're talking to the middle of December that it's going to be dry, drier than normal," Turck said.

These dry conditions could lead to one of the worst fire seasons in the history of Virginia, unless of course we get much more rain spread throughout the autumn season.

Fire season begins October 15 and right now, there aren't any burn bans in place locally, yet.

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