Rainfall breaks drought

Published 3:00 am Wednesday, November 30, 2016

After receiving very little rain over the past two months, Pike County is projected to have rain up to three days this week by the National Weather Service.

Pike County saw just 0.12 inches of rain in October and got its first legitimate rainfall of November on Monday night.

The National Weather Service forecasted a 70 percent chance of showers Tuesday with a 30 percent chance of thunderstorms later in the day.

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It forecasts a 90 percent chance of showers for today before finally going back to clear days on Thursday.

The rain is a particular relief to local fire departments, which have dealt with an ever-increasing threat of fires as the drought extended its streak.

“It’s definitely going to help,” said Troy Fire Chief Michael “Buford” Stephens. “We’ve had about a 25 to 35 percent increase in grass and woods fires over the past few weeks in the city and county. The fire in Gatlinburg shows just how quick and fast these things can spread.”

Stephens said that the statewide burn ban will continue to be in effect for the county until Gov. Robert Bentley decides to lift it, and that the city will continue to employ its no-burn ordinance. All outdoor burning is banned in the state right now.

Stephens said that they’ve narrowed some recent grass fires down to a cigarette being thrown out a window.

Pike County cattle farmer Krissy Pinckard said that the rain is much needed.

“Hallelujah!” Pinckard said. “Praise the Lord! We have been waiting for rain for it seems like three months now. It’s unbelievably important. It’s just so dry that the grass died early and we have to feed them hay nonstop, and hay is scarce. It needs to rain from now to Christmas. That’d be just fine.”

The weather is also a two-edged sword, as severe weather is expected early Wednesday morning.

Pike County EMA Director Jeanna Barnes said that wind, hail, and tornadoes will be possible starting in around 6 a.m. Wednesday morning until noon.

Strong winds specifically pose a problem, as Barnes said 30 mph winds could be enough to knock down trees weakened by the drought.