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Dry and drier: We are in long, dry stretch

It’s like the Fourth of July.

For creeks and streams in Western New York, that is. Not to mention the ground water table.

Farmers are seeing it, as they sow seeds in fields that are dry.

Homeowners mowing lawns for the first time this spring are doing so over cracked earth.

And boaters will notice it, too, as they navigate tributaries.

“It’s dry,” said Ken Meidenbauer, a Town of Lancaster resident.

How does he know?

He’s had to cut his lawn already, a few weeks ahead of his typical schedule.

“At least we’re not in California,” said his wife, Ann, as the couple enjoyed a warm Friday evening outdoors.

Those who keep an eye on such things say that this is something different.

“It’s unusual,” said Bob Hamilton, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Buffalo.

“It’s a dry spell.”

Is that hard to imagine?

It might be, given the rain that was forecast this weekend, not to mention the 112.9 inches of snow Buffalo endured last winter – which was nearly 20 inches more than normal.

But, when all that snow melted down, meteorologists at the National Weather Service here said, it simply didn’t hold very much water to nourish the ground.

The last time, in fact, that there was at least 0.75 inches of precipitation in a single day was Oct. 5. That makes a span of 217 days, as of Sunday.

Even the colossal double lake-effect snowstorm of November couldn’t break the spell.

When the snow was melted down from the two storms spanning last Nov. 17-21, the total liquid precipitation at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport was 1.3 inches. The daily high – Nov. 19 – was 0.51 inches.

The current streak is good enough to crack into the top 10 longest such dry stretches in recorded weather history in Buffalo. By mid-week, it will climb to eighth place in all-time recorded Buffalo history.

That seems like a cinch.

Besides some possibilities for thunderstorms over the next couple of days, there’s little relief in sight.

“There’s no widespread soaking rains in the offing,” said meteorologist Hamilton.

Every month since last November has been below normal for total precipitation in Buffalo. All six-plus months have combined to put the region 6.23 inches below average since Nov. 1, 2014.

“You’re seeing cracks in yards and stuff, which usually isn’t seen until the Fourth of July,” Hamilton said. “A lot of the feeder streams are drying up and you usually don’t see that until mid-July.”

The recent dry weather – combined with a warm, breezy day with low humidity last Monday – prompted a rare “red flag warning” throughout the region.

The warning cautioned that the conditions were ripe for fire in forested and grassy areas and could “spread quickly, burn intensely and be difficult to contain.”

A statewide burn ban – which forbids any open burning – remains in effect until at least next weekend. It remained unclear late this week whether that prohibition would be extended by the state Department of Environmental Conservation because of conditions.

The dry ground also sets up a scenario that could make the summer a hotter one too, Hamilton said.

Moisture in the ground helps cool things off in the same way your body does when it sweats.

When there’s no moisture there, Hamilton said, it heats things up that much faster.

“You can tack five degrees onto whatever the computers tell you” for forecast temperature, Hamilton said.

That’s kind of what happened on Friday.

The forecast high temperature was 78 degrees, but the day actually topped out at a record-breaking 88 degrees.

It was Buffalo’s first 80-degree day of 2015.

Tom and Sue Wehling, residents of Wheatfield for some 30 years, were looking over garden plants – tomatoes among them – on Friday evening, with its warm, dry weather.

The Wehlings said their acreage in Niagara County isn’t too dry at this point.

But, Sue Wehling is keeping an eye on some trees they planted not long ago, including a walnut and a pear.

“If it persists, we might have to start watering,” she said.

And Tom Wehling said he is wondering about what the rest of the year holds for Western New York.

It could be a dry one.

“It could be,” Wehling said. “So far, it’s kind of shaping up that way.”

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