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Charlotte Amalie
Sunday, June 23, 2024
HomeNewsLocal newsDrought Conditions are Forecast to Intensify Across Puerto Rico, the USVI

Drought Conditions are Forecast to Intensify Across Puerto Rico, the USVI

Photo of St. John in 2022 (left) and the dry conditions this year in 2023 (right). (Photo courtesy of Drought.gov PR/USVI update)

Although Puerto Rico and the USVI received some precipitation recently, drought conditions are expected to intensify across the region.

According to an update from the National Integrated Drought Information System, which is affiliated with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, areas across Puerto Rico and the USVI already meet the criteria for a drought.

“Moderate drought conditions are now observed across Puerto Rico and Saint Thomas, with severe drought conditions noted in Saint Croix,” the NIDIS update explains.

“The most likely scenario during the next few weeks is for the persistence and expansion of drought conditions across all islands. The rainfall during the month of May will be crucial to determine if drought conditions will prevail during the summer months. Farmers are preparing now for the dry season ahead,” the update continues.

Impacts on the Islands

Dry conditions across the region can have significant implications, particularly for the agricultural sector.

“In some regions, reduced rainfall is leading to low soil moisture, dry pastures, and affected crops. Browning vegetation and cracks in the soil show the effects of dry conditions. In Santa Isabel, dry conditions may be of concern to some farmers who rely on irrigation canals to provide water for their crops,” the NIDIS update describes about Puerto Rico.

Drought monitor graphic showing the USVI and Puerto Rico. Both territories are experiencing arid conditions. (Photo courtesy of Drought.gov update)

Similar concerns about lack of water are reported on all three of the major islands in the USVI. The NIDIS bulletin explains that farmers on St. Croix are already making preparations for the possibility of a prolonged drought.

“Livestock farmers are working to plan for feed shortages later this summer due to a lack of grass during the hotter months,” according to the update.

“The Virgin Islands Department of Agriculture (VIDA) is currently buying and storing hay,” the message stated. “Ranchers are looking at their drought mitigation strategies to plan for vegetation distress. Poultry farmers are now indicating that egg production has been reduced by up to 50% due to the heat. Poultry farmers also report they are concerned about conditions moving into the warmer months because of the demand for water required to produce.”

Wildfires

In addition to concerns within the island’s agricultural industry, dry weather can create conditions that are ripe for wildfires to occur.

On Tuesday, a “Burn Ban” was implemented across the USVI by the Virgin Islands Fire and Emergency Medical Services.

The Virgin Islands Fire and Emergency Medical Services has issued a burn ban across the USVI. (Photo courtesy of VIFEMS)

“Effective immediately, VIFEMS announces a territory-wide burn ban. This decision has been made in response to increased fire risks caused by the current dry weather conditions. The burn ban will remain in effect until further notice and applies to all open fires, including campfires, bonfires, trash, yard debris, or brush burning,” according to an update from VIFEMS.

recent Source interview with Steven Ippoliti, a predictive service meteorologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, describes the risks of wildfires in the Caribbean in great detail.

How to Stay Informed About Drought Conditions 

The NIDIS provides consistently updated information about drought conditions on its website.

Weather alerts will also be posted on the Source Weather Page, including information about drought and wildfire risks. USVI residents and visitors can also sign up for emergency alerts from the Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency and the National Weather Service.

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