MADAWASKA, Maine — The northern crown of Aroostook County is in a severe drought — the worst conditions in the state, the United States Drought Monitor said Thursday. The area recorded the driest June on record since 1895.
Precipitation over the last 60-90 days was below average following dry conditions over the past few months, the National Weather Service in Caribou said.
The severe drought status is due to low moisture in the soil and lack of widespread rainfall, drying vegetation and low stream flows, according to the weather service report. Low stream flows are cited as the cause of significant damage to grain crops as of July 9.
Maine Emergency Management Natural Hazards Planner John York said there might be a huge impact to agriculture in Maine, despite the recent rainfalls. If the drought slips into the next, even drier category, the quality of drinking water could decline, York said.
Often in a D2, or severe, drought status, crops are affected, hay prices increase, burn bans are issued, trees become brittle, fish die off, water quality becomes poor as groundwater declines, ponds dry up and outdoor water restrictions are implemented.
Greg Cornwell of the National Weather Service in Caribou said the rains “brought some relief to vegetation.”
“However, the lack of frequent or regular rainfall so far this season has made an impact on local river levels,” Cornwell said. “Average USGS stream flows across the St. John Valley and Crown of Maine have been at or near record low levels, running roughly 15 to 35 percent of normal. These low streamflows can again be attributed to a deficit in frequent rainfall and a large departure from normal precipitation.”
As of July 9, the Caribou weather office recorded rainfall at 2.52 inches below normal since June 1, and 3.62 inches below normal at the Frenchville Airport, according to Cornwell.
“The 50-day period ending July 2 was the driest ever for late May into early July at Caribou since records began in 1939. Just 1.78 inches of precipitation was recorded in that span,” he said.
The U.S. Drought Monitor is a partnership between the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.