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Warm weather worsens drought

The drought has worsened next door to Centre County, environmental regulators said Friday, and forecasters added that game day today will be T-shirt-and-shorts hot.

“It’ll be the warmest day in the bunch,” AccuWeather expert senior meteorologist Alex Sosnowski said.

Clinton County, Centre County’s northeastern neighbor, was placed in a “drought warning” condition because water suppliers have problems meeting demand, the state Department of Environmental Protection said Friday.

The warning asks residents to voluntarily reduce water consumption by 10 to 15 percent. Clinton County was alone among the state’s 67 counties thus designated, but the list under a less severe “drought watch” was expanded to 53 counties, and continues to include Centre County. A drought watch asks for a voluntary 5 percent cutback in water usage.

The worsened Clinton County condition owes in part to a depth reading of Beech Creek, which is part of the Clinton-Centre boundary, that “went from what historically was a ‘watch’ category to an ‘emergency’ in just one week,” DEP spokeswoman Susan Rickens said Friday.

Eastern Centre County dairy farmers have had to haul water for their cattle in recent weeks, and a DEP water quality specialist said last week that he had never seen Clinton County’s Fishing Creek as dry as it is now.

Rickens said water supplies in Clearfield County, on Centre County’s opposite flank, also appear to be low.

Max Gill, executive director of the State College Borough Water Authority, which serves more than 65,000 people in the Centre Region, said well-water supplies are a little below normal together with above-average water use owing to the dry summer.

Gill said the county may stand apart from surrounding areas because homes are new — with low-flow toilets and showerheads — and the porous limestone underground is a great water tank.

“We’re concerned, but we’re in very good shape,” Gill said. “I think it’s a function of the geology — that we just happen to be in an area that has a lot of stored water.”

A dry summer and September has continued into an unusually warm early October, with temperatures in recent days in the mid-80s.

With 100,000 football fans elbow to elbow in a humid Beaver Stadium with no breeze, today’s expected 84-degree temperature will feel like 90 during the Penn State-Iowa game, Sosnowski said.

“It’s going to feel kind of uncomfortable,” he said. “It’s going to feel more like a midsummer baseball game than a fall football game.”

Sosnowski said the “best shot” for a quarter-inch or more of rain will be Wednesday or Thursday.

He put the odds at 50-50 and said a few days will be cooler next week before unseasonably warm temperatures return.

He said the record high temperature for Friday’s date was 88, set in 1900. Warm autumn weather patterns come and go, he said, though lengthy ones happen but once every 20 or 25 years.

“Has it been this warm in the past? Certainly it has,” Sosnowski said. “Has it been this persistent? That’s a little more rare.”

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