JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — An East Tennessee State University professor is working with the state on ways to handle drought.
Dr. Andrew Joyner, associate professor of geosciences and state climatologist, helps officials draw lines for the U.S. drought monitor.
“I think there needs to be a lot more attention paid to drought management and anticipation of drought in the state of Tennessee,” Joyner said. “There’s things that we’re working on to improve that.”
He’s working with the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Environment and Conservation to look at the impact, triggers, and the state’s response to these issues.
One goal he has is to update the state’s Drought Management Plan which he said hasn’t been updated since 2010. Joyner said every county develops its own plan, but he feels like they can develop a more cohesive state response to drought.
Another goal is to conduct a statewide drought study to better understand how drought has historically impacted sectors across the state such as transportation, commerce, health, wildlife, and agriculture.
Joyner said agriculture is feeling the effects even now.
“Farmers are having to feed hay a lot sooner than they normally would so I would be concerned about the cost of hay or lack of hay going into the winter and the spring when they really need that,” Joyner said.
According to the National Weather Service, normally, the month of September averages around three inches of rain when this year only 0.83 inches were recorded. In October, we should have just over two and a half inches of rain and recorded under half of that. By the end of November, we should measure just under an inch and a half, but right now we’re just over a tenth of an inch.
“Usually for September, October, into November, that is a very dry stretch of months for us here in our region,” said News Channel 11 meteorologist Laurel Blanchard. “So, that on top of the very extreme drought conditions that we’ve been seeing, going almost weeks without rain, that’s something pretty serious especially for our region already being dry.”
Wildfires are a main concern.
“Any little spark, flame, anything like that can really get out of hand when we’re in a situation like this and those fires can get massive,” Joyner said.
Joyner is on a statewide drought and wildfire taskforce that meets every two weeks. He’s urging everyone to adhere to burn restrictions.