Allegheny County Under Drought Watch

The region is an average of 3 inches below normal precipitation for the year.

The grey, overcast skies Friday raised Pine-Richland residents' hopes for rainfall. 

Yet, so far, very few communities have seen any raindrops. 

That's pretty much been the story since June. Because of the extremely dry conditions, all western Pennsylvania counties are under a drought watch, according to the Palmer Drought Severity Index, which measures soil moisture conditions.

The U.S. Drought Monitor map issued this week shows western Pennsylvania as abnormally dry with the very western edge of the state now in moderate drought. This quickly evolving drought marks a sharp contrast to last summer. 

Spring 2011 was the wettest on record for many states, including Ohio and Kentucky. Now, 61 percent of the U.S. is in moderate or greater drought.

You may have noticed the creek or stream in your neighborhood or community looking mightly low lately. River gauges are measuring low stream flows as well. 

And the rain gauge at Pittsburgh International Airport measures 0.29 inches below average so far for the month of July.

June started off the late spring and summer on a very dry note, winding up 3.06 inches below normal in Pittsburgh. For 2012, Pittsburgh International's total is at 3.07 inches below average. 

The week-long stretch of 90-plus degree temperatures to start off July didn't help matters and local farmers are watching their crops wilt under the bone-dry conditions and heat. 

Grain prices are showing the result with corn, soybean and wheat prices on the rise.  If the drought continues, farmers say they will have no choice but to pass on that cost to consumers. 

Rain chances are a bit higher over the next few days as the atmosphere moistens up a bit.  Still, forecasts call for only about a 10th to a quarter inch of rain likely across the area Sunday and Monday.

Kristin Emery is a meteorologist with KDKA.

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