Parts of county facing severe drought

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Central, northern Barry County seeing burn bans

A lack of rain over recent weeks in parts of Barry County has seen the central and northern parts of the county moved into a D3 (extreme drought) status, and firefighters are urging residents to be cautious.

Nick Mercer, Purdy fire chief, said his district and Monett City have issued burn bans, and others are considering it after the new designation on Thursday.

“As far as fires go, it’s easier for them to pop up and they will spread faster,” Mercer said. “even sparks or a cigarette butt can light one right now.”

Mercer said it has been a few years since the county has experienced this type of drought, and people should be aware.

“We’ve already had several fires in the Purdy District, and at least one has been from someone throwing a cigarette from a vehicle,” he said. “You can see burned areas on the side of the roadways around the region.”

Mercer said for the time being, no outdoor burning should take place.

Should rainless weeks continue, Mercer said it’s possible for areas to enter a D4 (exceptional drought) status.

D3 impacts include:

• Corn is high in nitrates; major crop loss is reported; hay and water for cattle is limited; hay is expensive; producers are hauling water

• Burn bans are common; fires spread easily

• Mature tree death is common; insect populations decrease; fish kills occur

• Building foundation damage occurs

• Ponds are dried; wells are drying; large lakes and reservoirs are extremely low; mandatory water restrictions are implemented

D4 impacts include:

• Agriculture loss is widespread

• Cattle sales increase; cattle are lighter at auctions; producers are culling; premature birthing is reported

• Bird hunting decreases

• People are in a state of desperation

• Landscape goes dormant

• People are digging deeper and more wells, extending pipelines; Lack of hydropower causes electrical failures

While half of the county is in D3 status, the southern part of the county is still in D1 (moderate drought). Rusty Rickard, Central Crossing fire chief, said the Shell Knob area has not seen any issues yet.

“A few fire departments are hoping to enact a county ban, but the support is not there,” he said. “I’m afraid in a week or two down the road everyone will jump on board and it won’t happen as quickly as they want. It is dry, and I expect the fire chiefs association to put out a cautionary note county-wide.”

Rickard said with no substantial rain in the immediate forecast, it will continue to get dry.

“Kudos to those guys over at Purdy for being proactive and putting the bug in people’s ears,” he said.

D1 impacts include:

• Topsoil is dry; corn yield is small; pastures are not growing; crops are stressed

• Urban watering is extensive

• Fire threat increases; burn bans begin

• Pond and river levels decline.

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