CHARLESTON, W. Va. (WOWK) — Governor Jim Justice declared a State of Emergency for all 55 counties in West Virginia on Thursday, Oct. 3. This decision comes after a prolonged shortage of rainfall caused severe drought conditions in southern West Virginia and moderate drought conditions across the rest of the state.
Over the past 90 days, West Virginia received two to five inches less rainfall than normal, with some pockets of five to seven-inch rainfall deficits across the southern half of the state. As a result, numerous rivers, lakes, and streams are experiencing extremely low water levels; lowering harvest amounts, limiting water supplies for livestock, and increasing the risk of forest fires, among other potential dangers.
” We have actually had entire fire seasons where that was the total number of acres that might have been burned. It is unusual to have any significant fires in September.”Barry Cook, Division of Forestry Director and State Forester
According to the WV Division of Forestry, in the month of September alone, West Virginia experienced more than 90 fires and approximately 600 burnt acres, statewide.
As part of Thursday’s State of Emergency, the Governor directed state officials to:
- Implement the West Virginia Emergency Operations Plan as it relates to drought emergency response.
- Place the state Emergency Operations Center in stand-by status, unless activation is deemed necessary and appropriate.
- Restrict the use of water for the purposes of dust control at construction and industrial sites, except as required under terms of permits issued for the same.
- Monitor existing water sources for the presence of contaminants, including harmful algal blooms, which tend to propagate more readily in warmer and shallower waters.
Gov. Justice has also issued voluntary guidelines for the residents of West Virginia to:
- Cease non-agricultural irrigation in the state, including those for strictly recreational purposes.
- Limit washing or cleaning vehicles and/or structures where not otherwise required by law.
- Limit the use of public drinking water systems to minimal standards for good personal hygiene, food preparation, laundry, livestock, and pets, and other reasonable purposes.
- Cease the filling of private swimming pools.
The State of Emergency will remain in effect until rescinded by further proclamation. The statewide burn ban is also still in effect.