Feeling Dry? It Could Be Much Worse


"I knew it was awful, but I didn't know it was this awful," says Anna Mae Deming, a 54-year veteran of weather-watching in Payson.

What she refers to is our record-smashing rainfall of 2002. Our record-smashing low rainfall.

By Aug. 31, in a town with an annual precipitation average of 22 inches, we had received a spirit-dampening 3.7 inches, with only the months of July and August producing more than a half-inch of wet.

Drought occurs when an area receives, in a given year, less than 75 percent of its average rainfall. So far, two-thirds of the way into the year, we are at less than 18 percent.

Of course, those numbers won't come as any surprise at all to anyone who has been half awake and looking skyward since Jan. 1. Or anyone who happened to notice the Rodeo-Chediski, Pack Rat or Five Mile fires. Or anyone who heard that by the early days of summer, the world's largest stand of Ponderosa pine trees contained less moisture than can be found in kiln-dried lumber.

Makes you wonder: How many consecutive, history-making droughts can we or our forests and gardens and yards withstand? Is Payson destined to become a high-desert extension of the Valley? Will the town's logo have to be redesigned to feature a cactus instead of a pine tree?

Let's focus on the positive: At least we're not in the Horn of Africa, where a 19841985 drought led to a famine which killed 750,000 people.

Feel better yet?

And at least we're not in Texas, where severe droughts have been recorded in every decade since Spaniards explored the area. The most catastrophic one began in the late spring of 1949, covered the state and lasted seven years. By the end of 1952, Lake Dallas held only 11 percent of its capacity.

On the other hand, in what has most likely been that state's worst drought ever, eight inches of rain fell along the state's Mexican border during the entire year of 1953.

Right now, I think we'd all be happy with eight inches of rain.

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