FORT WAYNE — Despite Thursday evening’s much-needed rainfall, the drought plaguing Fort Wayne and the surrounding area won’t be letting up anytime soon, the National Weather Service said.
“Overall, the drought is bad and will continue to worsen as we progress into July,” said Pat Murphy, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Syracuse.
The region’s drought had been classified as “moderate,” but on Thursday, it was reclassified as “severe,” according to a report from the U.S. Drought Monitor.
So far this year, rainfall measured at Fort Wayne International Airport is 7.24 inches below normal. That includes the 0.18 inch of rain officially recorded Thursday afternoon.
To put that in context, Murphy said, the region has not seen such conditions since the 1930s.
A rainstorm doused a swath of the area from Fort Wayne northeast to Hicksville, Ohio, on Thursday evening. More than 1 inch fell in some places, but other spots experienced little to no rain, Murphy said.
The weather service is forecasting a small chance of rain Sunday night, but any rain that falls is not expected to be significant. Temperatures are expected to drop and fall back in line with seasonal norms, Murphy said, but with the summer heat persisting, the region will keep losing moisture through evaporation.
For now, he said, the only hope for relief is the possibility of a remnant of a tropical storm hitting the area.
Burn bans have been issued in 47 Indiana counties. Countywide burn bans have been issued in every county in northeast Indiana except Whitley, though Columbia City has issued a fire ban. The Whitley County Fire Chiefs Association and county commissioners will review conditions on a weekly basis, according to the Indiana Department of Homeland Security.
At least 80 percent of Indiana is suffering at least a moderate drought and the state’s southwest corner has extreme drought conditions, according to a national watchdog’s report released Thursday.
Counties in the Evansville area are the driest, according to the new U.S. Drought Monitor map.
Much of the state has gone for weeks without significant rain. The National Weather Service has recorded rainfall of just one-hundredth of an inch for June in Indianapolis through Wednesday, meteorologist Amanda Homann said.
“Everywhere’s pretty dry,” Homann said Thursday, with the highest rainfall in the state reported at a quarter of an inch. “You can’t get any drier than a hundredth.”
Rainfall in the Evansville area was 11.37 inches below average for the year, said Deanna Lindstrom, a program supervisor with the weather service office in Paducah, Ky.
State Fire Marshal Jim Greeson said sporadic grass fires have been reported around the state in recent weeks, but nothing severe. That could change if the dry weather continues, he said.
“It’s very easy to create a spark in many ways, just doing outside work with tools and things,” Greeson said. “And it doesn’t take a lot of spark to catch dry grass on fire.”
Most of Indiana’s 831 fire departments are adequately equipped to deal with grass fires, Greeson said, but multiple fires could tax their resources and burn out of control.
“That’s the real danger,” he said.
Another fire hazard at this time of the year is fireworks, Greeson said, but there’s only so much officials can do to lower that risk.
Under a state law passed in 2007, local governments aren’t allowed to restrict the use of fireworks during certain hours from June 29 through July 8, he said.
However, he said, some counties have handled burn bans through disaster declarations and included fireworks. Those local prohibitions have not been challenged in court, he said.
The state climate office at Purdue University said farmers could lose crop yields because of the dry weather.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.