October 7, 2010

Drought, Drought, Drought…Through Time in Southwestern Pennsylvania




It’s raining, it’s pouring…from the Midwest to the Atlantic Coast, as I type this post. Will this rain improve conditions at Yough Lake, where dry, cracked veins are visible in the lake basin because the water level is down fifteen feet?*

     The following headlines were pulled from local newspapers.


Dry conditions continue    

Rain hasn’t helped much at Yough Dam.

For many in state, drought means dry wells


Drought emergency declared


Area water supply running dry…

Drought sends flood of business to well drillers

     Perhaps an upcoming newspaper headlines will proclaim that Despite recent rainfall, the Yough River Dam is still in a “fairly dry situation.” Will private wells go dry? Will there be a flood of business for well drillers?


     Gov. Tom Ridge declared a drought emergency in 55 of 67  Pennsylvania counties…including Fayette, Greene and Washington counties. “Pennsylvania’s water supply is at a dangerously low level throughout the entire state. If we don’t begin to conserve water today, there won’t be any to conserve tomorrow.” Ridge declared a drought warning, which calls for a voluntary 10 percent reduction in water use, in four counties, and a drought watch (a voluntary 5 percent reduction in water use) in eight counties. It is spurred on by weeks of triple-digit temperatures and a well-below-normal rainfall. Groundwater levels across the state have plummeted in recent weeks, emptying streams and rivers and drying out residential and commercial wells.*

     The Yough River is eleven feet lower than average, and dropping six inches a day. It is currently 1,416 feet above sea level.

     “The minimum pool is 1,344 feet above sea level; once the minimum pool is reached we would release only what the inflow is,” said Clyde Braun, resource manager with the corps (of what, I ask? It was not mentioned!).

     “I’ve been praying for rain since May and it hasn’t happened.”*

     When the water supply at the Salem Township barn slowed to a trickle because of the drought, the Kepple family decided to drill a well to supplement their spring-fed water supply that supplies their 350 cattle.

     “We had droughts in 1989, 1991, 1993 and 1995, but I’ve never seen the water table this bad before. The government said we had the 100-year drought earlier in the 1990s,…but this is worse,” said Bob Cummings, president of a well service company.**

     The Seick family found out firsthand about the drought whne water from their well began running ever-more slowly. Then dirt showed up in the water, another sign that a well may be failing.

A deeper well would cost about $4000…(a well-digging company) dug them a new well…375 feet deep, pumping 20 gallons per minute.

      Their experience is being repeated all over Monroe County and other parts of the state where wells and springs are drying up, victims of a six-month dry spell in which rainfall has only been half of normal.

     The hardest hit so far have been homes with springs or shallow wells, but some wells as deep as 800 feet have also failed.**

          “The drought we’ve had this summer has varied from spot to spot…You get rain in one place and 5 miles down the road, you don’t…” The summer showers were frequently localized rains, according to Eric Oesterling, extension educator at Penn State’s Cooperative Extension in Westmoreland County.

     Armstrong County is about 5 inches of precipitation below normal for the year; Butler, 3.5 inches; Westmoreland, 3 inches; and Allegheny, two inches, according to Bryan Swistock, a water resources extension specialist at Penn State University.

     The word on 2010′s drought came first from some people living in Slippery Rock Township. They have water problems. The water supplying their spring, which normally supplies six families and fills a pond, is low. It is reduced to a trickle. Drought conditions exist.***

     At Yough Lake, a man) pointed to a stone wall and said the water usually was “that high.” News reports stated that the river was about fifteen feet lower than it should be…I walked across mud cracks on what should have been the Youghiogheny Lake basin, and looked down the river.****


     All of the items above could have been published in the media this year, 2010, a year of the drought. However, they weren’t.


     After posting A DROUGHT? WHERE? NOT HERE IN SOUTHWESTERN PENNSYLVANIA! last week, I pulled a box of newspaper articles from a pile of stuff I still have not gone through after moving to Laurel Mountain Borough. (I’ve saved so much—but then, that’s fodder for a future post).

     The reports put things into perspective. This year isn’t the first year of a drought, from which there is usually a recovery. In fact, it’s raining right now, from the mid-west to the Atlantic Coast. It rained all day, and all of yesterday. And it will rain tomorrow.

     The first (*) piece was published on page one of the July 21, 1999 issue of the Herale Standard. August 23, 1999, issue of the Daily Courier, a Connellsville newspaper. The two second ones were published in the December 23, 1998 issue of the Greensburg Tribune-Review, while the third one (***) came from the September 29, 2010 issue of the Greensburg Tribune-Review. Just for the record, the rain was spotty. Several times it was raining here in Laurel Mountain Borough, while four miles away in Ligonier they were dry, bone dry.

     The information in number four (****) came from a September 23, 2010, post in A Drought? Where? Not here in Southwestern Pennsylvania!


     So what’s the point?

     I guess it could be that no matter what difficulties accompany drought conditions, they are not new happenings. And they do weather-correct.

     Or that the news never changes…it just takes on different details.

     Or perhaps it’s that I should have saved less throughout the years.

     Or I should be clearing out my boxes at a speedier rate.

     Note, however, that these four news articles will find their way to the recycling bin as soon as I rise from this chair in front of my computer. Before I rise, I must post this, so the information is preserved for prosperity.

     While I complete these tasks, the rain will keep falling, at a steady rate, which should improve the drought conditions of 2010.





(to subscribe see upper right hand post on this site—

Notification will begin after you confirm your subscription

on the e-mail you will receive from )



A Drought? Where? Not here in Southwestern Pennsylvania!

Youghiogheny River AKAs


Ghostly white pumpkins of the Lunar variety

A Jack-O-Lantern Interview

1 Comment »

  1. Nice Post… Thanks///

    Comment by Destronex — October 8, 2010 @ 4:26 pm | Reply

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

What is your opinion?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: