Lack of rain causing farms, wells to dry out

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Warm, dry weather during the past couple of months has been great for anyone who spends time outdoors.

But as VPR’s Ross Sneyd reports, farmers – and now at least one municipal water system – are wishing it would rain.

(Sneyd) Sam Comstock says the pastures on his farm in Chester are looking unusually brown this year.

There’s been little rain in August or September, so he’s not getting much late season regrowth.

(Comstock) “Some of my fields have started to regrow a little bit, they’ve greened up some, but they haven’t really started to take off and grow. And now we’re getting into the shorter, cooler days. We’ll get a little more growth as we go into the end of the season, but not a lot more growth.’’

(Sneyd) Besides raising his own livestock, Comstock also works for the University of Vermont Extension Service.

He says some farmers have so little grass left that they’re going to start feeding hay to their cows and sheep soon, as much as two months before they normally do.

It’s all because the rain’s been so scarce lately. In August, rainfall was more than 2.5 inches below normal. And so far for September, there’s been nearly 1.75 less than usual.

Vermont generally gets a shot of rain in late summer and early fall, often from the remnants of a tropical storm or hurricane.

But National Weather Service meteorologist Greg Hanson says this year’s been different.

(Hanson) “We have had a persistent Northeast or East Coast ridge of high pressure. What that tends to do is keep the jet stream further north, keeps us out of the best moisture. It keeps all the Atlantic moisture and Gulf moisture blocked off to our south. It keeps up us out of the moisture we need for the storms. It also keeps the storm tracks away from us and further to our north.’’

(Sneyd) And that’s been bad news to the town of Montgomery in eastern Franklin County.

A single well has provided drinking water to residents of Montgomery village and nearby Montgomery Center since a water source in the village failed a few years ago.

Town Clerk Renee Patterson says it’s been a strain on that one well to supply both communities. Now, the dry weather has made it worse.

(Patterson) “We’ve noticed in the past few weeks, that the water has not been recovering as well as in the past. Most recently, it’s been at an extremely low level and there’s a few people at the higher elevations that have actually run out of water.’’

(Sneyd) So, Montgomery has been trucking in water for customers whose taps have run dry. Also, a new well has been drilled and should be pumping soon. And a reservoir is being built.

Forecasters say the weather isn’t going to be recharging wells much. Just a couple of days of rain are expected and then the forecast is for more clear skies.

For VPR News, I’m Ross Sneyd.

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