Despite recent cloudbursts, Champlain Valley remains in a dry spell

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It will take more than several days’ downpours to drag northwest Vermont out of its drought, weather experts say.

Yes, some parched sections of local lawns have bounced back after the end-of-June cloudbursts. Gardeners, grateful after a month of piddly-to-zero precipitation, have seen blossoms pop.

But the Champlain Valley’s dry spell that parched June to a crisp is likely to extend into July, forecasters predict.

“We’re looking at a warmer and drier trend further out into the month,” Brooke Taber, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service bureau in South Burlington, said Thursday.

Thunderstorms will continue to soak parts of the state, he added, “but it will be hit-or-miss.”

Last Resort Farm in Monkton can attest to the “hit” part of that equation: Five inches of rain battered their strawberry fields June 29 – 30. The owners are selling what remains of their crop at a discount, the berries best suited for jam, according to a Facebook post.

On the other side of Monkton, the rainfall measured just a tad over half-inch, a neighbor posted on Instagram.

Rain gauges, lake levels and dry wells

Burlington was walloped by 1.25 inches of rain during the two last days of June — about two-thirds of the entire month’s total (1.88 inches), weather service data shows.

Even with that deluge, the Queen City still only got about half the rain that normally falls in June (3.7 inches).

Precipitation in Burlington for the year thus far totals 13.45 inches, according to AccuWeather. Normally, that rain-gauge stands at 16.20.

City-dwellers need only stroll to the shores of Lake Champlain to confirm a low-water trend that began in mid-April.

On Thursday morning, lake levels were a whisker above 95 feet above sea level — more than a foot below normal for this time of year. That’s more in line with what we’d expect in mid-to-late August, the Weather Service’s Taber said.

Boaters might encounter low-water obstacles earlier in their season, Taber added.

On-shore access to lake water will not be a problem for municipal water systems, whose intake pipes lie many dozens of feet deep.

But further east, Vermonters face a greater risk of wells running dry, and in some areas, residents should begin taking steps to conserve water, state officials say.

By the end of June, about 164,000 Vermonters — about a fourth of the state’s population — were living in drought conditions, according to the National Integrated Drought Information System, a federal agency.

Abnormally high temperatures predicted for the summer season are likely to increase the risk, State Climatologist Lesley-Ann Dupigny-Giroux wrote in a June 26 bulletin.

That doesn’t necessarily mean the dry spell will get dryer, forecasters say. After all, relief might come down in one of those stray, cats-and-dogs gully-washing thunderstorms.

Contact Joel Banner Baird at 802-660-1843 or joelbaird@freepressmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @VTgoingUp.

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