From one extreme to the other Drought in West, flooding in Southeast seen.

March 17, 1992|By Knight-Ridder

WASHINGTON -- Drought conditions in the West are expected to continue despite this year's heavy rainfall, while conditions in the Southeast quarter of the country are prime for additional flooding, according to the National Weather Service.

"This year will be a mix of extremes with conditions ranging from drought to flooding," meteorologist Michael D. Hudlow said yesterday.

"What we've got is the natural variation of the weather being affected by El Nino."

El Nino is a massive patch of warm water in the Pacific Ocean that drifts east to west. The phenomenon is not fully understood by meteorologists but is believed to cause abnormal global weather conditions.

El Nino's effects on weather patterns this year are moderate compared to other years, according to Mr. Hudlow.

This year, California and other Western states are again experiencing water shortages, with some parts of California having their sixth year at drought level.

"Even with the flooding that occurred last month in Southern California, the state's rainfall is still below average," Mr. Hudlow said. "This is because the storm that caused the flooding was localized. Some areas got 4 inches of rain and others got less than 1."

Currently, reservoirs in northern California, which supply most of the state's water, are filled to only 70 percent capacity compared to last year at this time.

Other Western states are also being affected. Last month, 11 counties in southeast Oregon were declared to be at drought level by the state's governor. Nevada, Idaho and parts of Utah, Wyoming, Washington, Montana, Colorado and North Dakota are also expected to experience water shortages and drought conditions.

Water shortages also are expected in the Northeast. New York City is currently under a drought warning because of low precipitation, stream flow, reservoir storage and ground water.

While the Western states may have too little rain, the Southeastern corner of the nation has been hit with too much.

"The ground is completely saturated and additional rain would likely cause flooding," said Mr. Hudlow.

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