- The Washington Times - Friday, December 13, 2002

Meteorologists expect a wet winter in the Washington area, easing drought concerns that have loomed for more than a year.
In its final drought statement of 2002, the National Weather Service said El Nino is a big reason that residents of the District, Virginia and Maryland probably won't confront the same restrictions in water usage including bans on watering grass and washing cars as they did in late summer and early autumn.
"The bottom line is, it looks very positive for us going into and through the winter," said Jim Travers, meteorologist in charge in the weather service's Baltimore-Washington office. "Where we couldn't get precipitation last year, it seems we're getting real precipitation-makers now."
Saeid Kasraei, water supply program administrator for Maryland, said that if December is any indication, the drought's end is probably on its way.
What was a double-digit deficit in the water supply in September is significantly lower now, Mr. Kasraei said.
"If the trend continues, I feel that by springtime, we will be completely out of the drought," he said.
Maryland makes weekly observations of available water by checking the levels of reservoirs, underground wells and rainfall.
With warm temperatures expected over the weekend, Mr. Travers said, the precipitation is more likely to be rain than ice and snow. Forecasters expect 1.5 inches of rain to fall in the area today and tomorrow.
Despite the thaw, remnants of the ice storm remained yesterday in hundreds of homes still without power.
A half-dozen fire trucks were prowling upper Montgomery County last night where darkness still reigns to make sure everyone was OK. They also were passing out battery-operated smoke alarms, a department spokesman said.
The area should stock up water between now and April because demand is higher in the spring, Mr. Travers said. He said a higher percentage of precipitation makes it into the ground in the winter than in late spring and summer.
The warmer months are "when you have all the competition [for water] the lawns, people watering the bushes and washing their cars," Mr. Travers said.
Water should not be used excessively even with a surplus of water, Mr. Travers said.
Virginia's four years of rain deficits can't be made up in a couple of months, the state's Drought Monitoring Task Force has said.
"It's just good practice to have people even when we have a lot to use it wisely," Mr. Travers said.
Mr. Kasraei agreed, saying that even with the National Weather Service's optimism, an 8-inch deficit remains in the Central Maryland water supply.
"The restrictions are to remind people that water conservation is important," he said. "It's when we come to the tough times that's when we remember that."

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