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      Dry weather leads to drought

      Dry weather has been the name of the game this summer.

      The eastern U.P. is abnormally dry. A moderate drought is ongoing west of a line from Marquette to Manistique, and a severe drought is in effect across most of Gogebic and Ontonagon counties, only excluding the far eastern ends of the counties. Just through May and June, the Ironwood area was about four inches below on rainfall, but they're not alone with the extreme rainfall deficits.

      "Iron Mountain, for example, is pretty much over eight inches below what they normally see in about a year's worth of time," said Steve Fleegel of the National Weather Service. "Houghton's about 7.25" below what they normally see, and the Marquette area is right around 6" below in the past year."

      Officially at the NWS site in Negaunee Township, there has been 1.04" of rain in July and a total of 14.46" for the year. That's 1.10" below normal for July and 4.34" less than average for the year.

      The lack of rain has taken its toll on the growing season and also on river and stream levels. The Black and Ontonagon Rivers are near record low levels, and others are already there.

      "The rivers that are seeing some of their all-time low stream flow on the 14-28 day averages are the Brule River in Florence county, the Pine River in Florence county, and pretty much the rivers that flow into the Menominee River basin," added Fleegel.

      Interestingly, the lower Great Lakes haven't been affected by the dry weather. In fact, Lake Michigan is up six inches from this time last year.

      "Lake Superior, on the other hand, with the relative dry conditions across the entire Lake Superior basin, the Lake Superior water level is actually less than last year," commented Mike Dutter of the National Weather Service. "It's four inches less than last year."

      Now compared to the long-term normals, both Lake Michigan and Lake Superior are roughly half a foot below normal.

      On a positive note, the dry conditions have been combined with cool temperatures, so wildfire activity has been minimal this summer.