As much as people complain about the harsh winter weather (excluding of course, this past winter), we are truly spoiled by the summer months in Rochester. As fun as the festivals, celebrations, and concerts are, my favorite part of summertime has always been the thunder storms. There is just something about watching the sky grow darker, feeling the wind pick up around you, hearing the claps of thunder become louder, and seeing the faint glow of lightning in the distance turn into quick flashes and bolts.

This year, though, one main aspect of the summer thunderstorm has often been missing – the smell of rain. This lack of rain has done more than simply skimp out on thunderstorms; it’s also the culprit for the state’s 90-day ban on brush burning.

On average, Rochester typically receives 2.93 inches of rain during the month of July. Although we still have one week left in the month, 2012 totals are drastically lower, with our total rainfall for July 2012 currently only 0.35 inch, and only 3 days with rain so far this entire month.  Our situation this summer is not unique. According to meteorologist, Brad Rippey from MSNBC, this summer’s drought has hit more than half of the contiguous United States.

“This year’s high temperatures have certainly played into this drought. There’s a lot more evaporation and demands for water.”

So, what exactly is a drought? Well, by definition, it’s just what Mr. Rippey has described– a deficiency in water supply, whether above or underground, for an extended period of time.  This has affected Monroe County in several ways, from loss of crops (including pumpkin patches and Christmas tree farms, if you can imagine thinking that far ahead), to a drastic increase in wild fires due to the combination of high heat and severe dryness, and even something known as “dairy heat stress” as a result of overheated cows producing less milk.

This sounds pretty intense – and it is – but never fear! According to Bob Morrison, Director of Water for the City of Rochester, this is only a moderate drought and although conditions may not be ideal, we are doing okay thanks to our lakes – which all currently have sufficient water levels.

“There is a point we could reach [where we would enter into conservation mode] but we’re doing very well right now, so that is not a concern for us. Right now, residents can keep on doing what they’re doing.”

So what are we, as Rochester residents in a moderate drought, to do? Keep living summer the way we would otherwise. Run through sprinklers. Wash your car in your driveway. Just don’t run around striking matches in fields of dead grass, and you’ll be just fine.