A drought watch advisory has been issued by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality for several localities across the Commonwealth, including Henry County and the surrounding region.
News of the drought watch underscores the importance of residents abiding by the burn ban which went into effect in the county on December 4.
“Until we see weather conditions improve, it isn’t safe for members of our community to continue burning outside,” said County Administrator Tim Hall. “The ban is in place for the safety of our citizens and the preservation of their property. We ask for everyone’s cooperation with the burn ban until it is deemed safe enough to be lifted.”
Failure to comply with the ban may result in criminal charges.
According to the Virginia Drought Monitoring Task Force, an interagency group representing state and federal agencies, a primary factor contributing to the drought watch advisory is the region receiving less than 50 percent of normal precipitation over the last 60 days. Some areas have received less than 25 percent of normal rainfall over the past two weeks.
Precipitation is predicted to remain below normal with above normal temperatures over the next two weeks. The calculated soil moisture is ranked in the lowest five percent of historic values across portions of the affected regions.
Stream flows are also hovering near historic levels with the seven-day average stream flow categorized as “below normal” for approximately 80 percent of stream gaging stations across Virginia. The measurements were within the lowest 10-24 percent of historic flows, according to the Virginia Drought Monitoring Task Force.
The drought watch advisory impacts five Drought Evaluation regions in Virginia: Chowan, Eastern Shore, Roanoke, Southeast Virginia and York James. The next stage after a drought watch is a “drought warning.”
Warnings are issued when the onset of a significant drought event is imminent. As officials wait to see if conditions improve, residents can take an active role in lessening the effects of the dry weather by adhering to mandatory restrictions such as the burn ban.
Call the Fire Marshal’s Office at (276) 634-4660 with any questions.