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Monitor: Eastern Suffolk drought status upgraded to moderate

It’s not much, but a small dent has been made in the severe drought conditions on Long Island.

As of an update issued Thursday, eastern Suffolk County is now considered to be in the moderate drought category, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. That’s the second least intense of five categories.

Much of Suffolk was deemed to be in severe drought as of July 26 of last year, and most of the rest of Long Island followed suit in mid-September, according to the Northeast Regional Climate Center based at Cornell University.

As of day’s-end Wednesday, January was a bit ahead of the curve, registering 2.01 inches of precipitation — including melted snow — at Long Island MacArthur Airport. For the first 11 days of the month, 1.32 inches is considered normal, said Jessica Spaccio, climatologist with the regional center.

In 2016, which ranks as the second-driest year on record at the airport, 34.99 inches were recorded, Spaccio said. That’s slightly above the 34.41 inches recorded in 1985.

When it comes to drought relief, “it’s easier to catch up in winter,” she said.

“In winter the demand for water is generally lower,” with less use for agriculture, and lawn and garden watering, she said. Also, there’s less water evaporation from plants.

The call on drought conditions can be based on a number of factors, including precipitation, soil moisture, and groundwater levels.

Still, Spaccio said, “we’ll need more precipitation, so that we don’t find ourselves in a similar situation in spring.”

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