Nope, it's not a drought just yet

Brown grass, dropping lake levels and brush fires are all indicators Whidbey Island could be experiencing a drought. But it isn't, at least officially.

According to Doug Kelly, a hydrogeologist for the Island County Health Department, the island is not experiencing a water shortage.

"There's nothing to worry about at this point," said Kelly this week, which saw temperatures drop from highs in the 80s over the past weekend.

He said because ground water is "muted" or "smoothed," a water shortage would be difficult to detect until a longer period had passed without significant rainfall.

Though dry, hot summer weather arrived on the island in late May and persisted through June -- normally a somewhat damp month -- no one is claiming that to be unusual.

"I've seen a whole lot worse than this," said Don Meehan, director of WSU Extension service of Island County. "There's nothing shocking here."

Meehan said, on average, rainfall in 2002 was low for the entire year. But 2003 hasn't been too far off average. He said June was slightly lower than average. July data hasn't been recorded yet.

Because averages have a lot of variation, Meehan said it was nothing out of the ordinary to see rainfall drop slightly.

"I expect that. It's rare to get the average number," he said.

Brush fires haven't been any worse than usual either, according to Darin Reid, battalion chief of special services for Fire District 3. In May 2002, district firefighters had to douse two brush fires. Firefighters were called to three such fires this May. Six brush fires occurred in each June 2002 and June 2003.

Still, not all manifestations of the early, hot and dry Whidbey summer seem to be explicable. Meehan said he had no explanation for the dropping lake levels -- which have left the public beach exposed at Goss Lakes and floating docks dropping at other lakes -- especially with close-to-average rainfall amounts.

"Something's haywire," he said joking.

Island County is currently under a burn ban for lack of rainfall.

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