Moderate to Severe Drought Conditions Exist in Parts of WNY
Parts of Western New York are now experiencing moderate to severe drought conditions.
Meteorologist Bill Hibbert of the National Weather Service says there is a 3 to 6-inch rain deficit across the Genesee River Basin and 2 to 5-inch deficit in the Finger Lakes Region.
"We've had some storms move through that have delivered some rain sporadically in some smaller areas, but what we really need is a real soaking rain; maybe for a couple of days."
One of the hardest hit regions of the state is the Buffalo metro/Niagara Frontier, where lake shadowing has reduced the frequency of showers and thundershowers.
"The lake actually shadows the precipitation away from Niagara and Orleans Counties,” Hibbert said. “The orchard industry there is really taking a hit, so it might be a bad year for apples."
The drought has not had any severe effect on grapes growing in the Finger Lakes, at least not yet. That’s because grapes have a deeper root system than many other crops. Their roots lie deep in the earth where the soil doesn’t dry out as quickly.
But Hans Walter-Peterson, a viticulture specialist with Cornell's Finger Lakes Grape program, says if the dry conditions continue into late August and September, there will be more cause for concern.
"When you get water stress when the vine is trying to ripen the fruit - trying to push the sugar, and aroma, and flavor compounds into the berries - if the vine is suffering then, then we can see some more serious impacts to the quality of the fruit."
Walter-Peterson says some grape varieties, especially reds such as Cabernet Franc, can benefit from a longer, warmer growing season, "Where you can just let the fruit hang as long as you want and then bring it in when you're ready or when you think the fruit is ready.”
More immediate drought-related concerns come to mind for Hibbert. "If folks would be a little more careful with outdoor fires and campfires and even backyard fire pits,” he said, “The conditions are ripe for fires to get loose and start to run wild."