SUMMIT COUNTY, Ohio (WJW) – The prolonged hot and dry conditions that have lingered across Northeast Ohio leaves the area and much of the state of Ohio on the verge of a drought declaration.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Drought Monitor Map took Ohio from perfectly fine to yellow, or D-0 conditions, in just one week from May 23 to May 30.
Since then, there has been no rain and there is no significant rain in the foreseeable future.
“If you have been fine, nothing’s going on. Then you get yellow, that’s telling you that things are getting bad. You are not quite in a drought yet, but maybe if things continue to get bad, a drought is coming,” said Richard Heim, who generated the current drought map.
Heim said the state of Ohio is not in the critical drought condition that some states in the middle of the country are in, but the designation here could change with the dry conditions continuing.
“The thing that was really striking was what we call flash drought. Things are really bad really fast and that can result in rapid expansion of these (drought designation) numbers, the Dx labels and that’s what happened last week,” said Heim.
“I’m not really into predictions here where I work, but looking at the forecast, looking at the indicators and looking at the map, I don’t see any improvement,” he told FOX 8 on Friday.
The dry conditions gripping Northeast Ohio are leaving dry, brown yards, cracking soil and wilting plants in outdoor gardens just after the time of year when many people have planted their gardens.
“A lot of gardens are newly planted, you know, a lot of people plant their gardens right around Memorial Day, so we are less than a week in. One thing to remember, no matter if you have little seedlings or bigger potted ones, what you want to remember is the root ball,” said Lisa Graf of Graf Growers in Akron.
“The most important thing, in my opinion, is to direct the water to the base of that plant so you are soaking the root ball,” said Graff.
Graff said many of the smaller plants that have been grown from seed and those that have not yet established a root system in home gardens are at a fragile stage. The most important thing anyone can do is to make sure they are watering sufficiently to let the water soak well into the ground.
That includes newly planted shrubs and yards, which she says do not need to be fertilized when they are dry and dormant.
“Right now, if you can water that’s best, but if you cant, that would be the single biggest thing you can do to improve your lawn is watering,” said Graf.
John Weedon, a farmer in Geauga County and the executive director of the Stark Soil and Water Conservation District, says many farmers were able to get their plants in the ground, but they badly need rain.
Weedon calls this a critical time, a fragile time for corn and beans which have germinated.
He says the first cutting of hay was on the short side
“Unfortunately there’s nothing you can do but check the forecast,” said Weedon.
“Most farms (in Ohio) don’t have the irrigation equipment because they don’t typically need it,” he added, saying he has seen when crops haven’t looked great in the past but after a “nice gentle soaker” rainfall, the plants take off.
Across the country, the USDA crop progress and condition reports show 28% of the nation’s soybeans in drought conditions, while 34% of the nations corn is also in drought conditions.
In Copley, Bill Dunkler has worked his five generation family farm his whole life.
He has planted some corn in one of his lower fields, which typically gets a lot of water, but he has held off planting other crops like squash, corn and beans in another field because the conditions are so dry.
Dunkler says he could plant by hand to make sure the seeds get down far enough into the soil, which he describes as ‘muck’ to where there is some moisture, but a mechanical planter would only deposit the seed into a top layer he describes as “dust.”
“This corn is a big item that they plant right now and when if their planters don’t penetrate this dust layer, it’s going to just sit there until it gets a rain,” said Dunkler. “Farmers with brown soil, other than this black soil, the more they work it, the drier it gets.”
The current U.S. Drought Monitor Map can be found here.