Home DEQ reports Shenandoah Valley, Blue Ridge have ‘exceptional dryness’ despite recent rain

DEQ reports Shenandoah Valley, Blue Ridge have ‘exceptional dryness’ despite recent rain

Crystal Graham
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The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, in coordination with the Virginia drought monitoring task force, has expanded a drought watch advisory to include 64 counties, an expansion of nine counties from the previous advisory.

Seven counties remain under a drought warning advisory.

All regions except for portions of southwest Virginia, the Middle Peninsula and Tidewater are affected.

While recent rains have provided some relief over the past two weeks, the entirety of Virginia remains below historical averages, with exceptional dryness in the Shenandoah Valley and along the Blue Ridge.

Area-averaged rainfall since the beginning of the current water year has remained below long-term normal values for most of the Commonwealth.

A drought warning advisory indicates a significant drought is imminent and remains in effect for:

  • Shenandoah region: Augusta, Rockingham, Shenandoah, Frederick, Page, Warren and Clarke counties.

A drought watch advisory is intended to help Virginians prepare for a potential drought, and has been declared for the following areas:

  • Big Sandy: Lee, Wise, Buchanan, Dickenson, Scott, Russell, Tazewell, Washington and Smyth counties

A drought watch advisory remains in effect for the following areas:

  • Eastern Shore: Accomack and Northampton counties
  • Northern Virginia: Fauquier, Loudoun, Prince William, Arlington, and Fairfax counties
  • York-James: Hampton, Newport News, James City, York, Charles City, and New Kent counties
  • Middle James: Amherst, Lynchburg, Nelson, Albemarle, Appomattox, Buckingham, Fluvanna, Prince Edward, Cumberland, Goochland, Amelia, Powhatan, Chesterfield, Petersburg, Hopewell, Colonial Heights, Henrico, and Hanover counties
  • Northern Piedmont: Greene, Madison, Rappahannock, Orange, Culpeper, Louisa, Spotsylvania, and Stafford counties
  • Roanoke River: Patrick, Franklin, Roanoke, Henry, Bedford, Pittsylvania, Campbell, Halifax, Charlotte, and Mecklenburg counties
  • Upper James: Craig, Alleghany, Bath, Highland, Botetourt, and Rockbridge counties

Several factors have contributed to the current drought watch and warning advisories in the affected regions:

  • Stream flows across Virginia are below the 25th percentile of normal values and below the 10th percentile in the Shenandoah, Northern Piedmont and Chowan regions.
  • Groundwater levels are currently below the 5th percentile in Northern Virginia, Shenandoah, Eastern Shore, Big Sandy, and Roanoke River, and below the 25th percentile in the Middle James, Northern Piedmont, Southeast Virginia and York-James regions.
  • Moderate hydrologic drought conditions are present within the Shenandoah and Maury River watersheds and severe hydrologic drought is present within the Rapidan and Rappahannock River watersheds.

DEQ is working with local governments, public water works, and water users in the affected areas to ensure that conservation and drought response plans and ordinances are followed.

All Virginians are encouraged to protect water supplies by minimizing water use, monitor drought conditions and detect and repair leaks.

See the current drought status on the DEQ website.

Crystal Graham

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked for nearly 25 years as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.