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Dry weather creates concerns for municipalities and business

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Dry weather has taken over the majority of the nation, and the north country is no exception.

Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties are experiencing abnormally dry weather, hurting businesses and making towns and villages think about restricting water.

There is rain forecasted for next week, but there is no end in sight for the dry conditions.

“Unfortunately, although those thunderstorms can drop a lot of rain at one time, most of it just flows off,” said Michael R. Pukajlo, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Buffalo. “Slow, soaking rain is not on the horizon.”

Since June, Watertown has gotten 3.48 inches of rain, when it normally receives 4.25 inches, according to Jessica Rennells, Northeast Regional Climate Center climatologist. Lowville has gotten 3.62 inches rather than the norm of 5.35 inches, and Massena received 4.43 inches, when it normally receives 5.42 inches.

This is creating problems for municipalities like Hounsfield. While the town is not yet experiencing a water shortage, Water Superintendent Jeffrey J. Kenney said it could be only a matter of time.

“We’re getting to our limits,” Mr. Kenney said. “The village of Sackets is telling me that they’re pumping is at maximum capacity.”

He said that if water usage increases, there will be a shortage and probably water-usage restrictions.

Mr. Kenney is not the only one pondering the possibility of restrictions.

“I have been thinking about it,” village of Canton Superintendent Brien E. Hallahan said. “We’re close to what you would call a drought. It would be wise to request people to be conservative. We don’t have a lot of surplus water.”

Canton’s water supply comes from groundwater sources that could diminish if dry conditions continue. Because the village’s water filtration plant, which used to draw water from the Grasse River, has not been used in years, restarting it would require residents to boil water for drinking purposes.

“If that goes on line, that would be a certifiable emergency,” Mr. Hallahan said.

Gouverneur draws its supply from the Oswegatchie River, and filtration operators have been busy trying to stay ahead of use.

If it stays dry, the village probably will ask residents to curb water use when the Gouverneur & St. Lawrence County Fair begins July 31 to make sure it has adequate amounts, Mayor Christopher A. Miller said.

Adams also may have problems if the ground isn’t saturated with water soon.

“We’re watching it closely,” said Mayor Patricia C. Sweetland. “If things don’t change in a week and a half, we could be calling for conservation measures, if not a direct emergency.”

Heuvelton, which pumps from a single well, already has started to ask residents to voluntarily conserve water, Village Clerk Anna Hurst said.

According to Mr. Pukajlo, the near-drought conditions are created by a persistent high-pressure ridge like the one that caused the area to experience a mild winter.

“We’re under a lot of high-pressure-ridge activity that tends to dampen any funnel or thunderstorm activity,” he said.

Coupled with the dry conditions, temperatures have been rising. Watertown hit a 91-degree record high Wednesday, topping 1982’s 89 degrees. Massena tied a 1999 record when temperatures rose to 92 degrees.

The lack of moisture in the ground has dried grass to a crisp, slowing down business for landscaping companies like A Cut Above in Watertown.

“We can’t really mow lawns because there’s no grass, so it’s been slowing us down quite a bit,” said owner Justin S. Chesbrough. “If we did water delivery, we’d be busier.”

He said business has been slashed 15 percent to 20 percent in the past week.

“We need rain really bad,” Mr. Chesbrough said. “The cooler temperatures will not make a difference. It’ll get worse until we get some rain.”

Golf courses are hurting, too.

“The conditions of the fairway are very dry and the balls are running,” said Ives Hill Country Club golf professional Lanie M. Gerken.

She said the greens are still doing fine, but the pond that supplies water to them has only a week of water left. The grounds are getting watered two to three times a day with a sprinkler.

“The water bill has been going up for sure,” Ms. Gerken said. “The greens superintendent has said it’s the driest this early that he can remember.”

Times staff writer Martha Ellen and Johnson Newspapers writer Amanda Purcell contributed to this report.

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