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ENVIRONMENT REPORT – March 1, 2002: Eastern U.S. Drought - 2002-02-28


There has been a severe lack of rain and snow on the East Coast of the United States. The amount of rain and snow that has fallen in the states from Maine to Florida has been far below normal.

The lack rain or snow is called a drought. The East Coast states are suffering an unusual drought this winter. Some areas received only a small percentage of the rain they normally receive. And the drought has continued into the winter.

Normally, drought conditions happen during hot summer weather. Ground water supplies usually increase in the winter and decrease in the spring and summer. Some officials worry that a dry winter could cause serious water supply problems later in the year.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration studies and reports on weather and ocean conditions in the United States. The agency says that the East Coast drought is a continuing event. It began in November Nineteen-Ninety-Nine. NOAA says the drought is affecting eighteen percent of the United States, not including Alaska and Hawaii.

The drought reached its highest level in August Two-Thousand, when thirty-six percent of the states were affected. NOAA says the current drought is as severe as any in the last forty years.

Weather experts say they do not know if there will be more rain or snow in the near future. Their concerns have increased because the recent period from October to January was the second driest ever recorded for the Northeastern United States.

The Delaware River Basin Commission controls the water supply used by about twenty-million people in the New York City area and nearby states. That agency has already begun placing limits on the use of water. Drought warnings are in effect in many places on the East Coast.

The lack of water has caused some officials to consider ways to store water more effectively. Western states, like Nevada, store huge amounts of water underground. Now, some officials in New York are considering the same kind of system. The state of New Jersey already has built some underground storage structures and plans to build more.

Experts say that measures once necessary only for dry desert areas may be needed for the heavily populated East Coast.

This VOA Special English ENVIRONMENT REPORT was written by Mario Ritter.