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Drought fears in the Prairies


April 13, 2010 — After an extremely dry fall and winter, farmers in Alberta and Saskatchewan are fearing the worst. Will this week's snow and rain help the potential drought situation?

All the ingredients are there for this to be another drought season across Prairies, and that has farmers in the provinces on high alert.

Parts of Alberta and Saskatchewan are the driest they've been in 25 years. In fact, Alberta is currently in the grip of its' driest back-to-back years on record since the 1880's. There was little snow this winter and, according to Environment Canada, there's a long, hot spring and summer ahead. There could even be an unprecedented water crisis in the coming months.

Still, not all hope is lost. In fact, a spring storm could bring some thirsty regions a much-needed quenching this week.

The system is currently pushing its way north of the border from the United States. It has already brought some snow to Alberta, and it could bring a good shot of precipitation to Saskatchewan today.

“As the main low moves in we're looking at heavy rain for a good portion of Saskatchewan,” says Weather Network meteorologist Rob Davis. “Swift Current, Saskatoon and Prince Albert could see up to 50mm over the next couple of days.”

In Alberta, the story will mainly be snow. Edmonton is only looking at about 2 to 5cm through Wednesday; still, many farmers will take what they can get.

“At this point, any precipitation is helpful in Alberta, frozen or not,” says Weather Network meteorologist Brian Dillon. “But it's not a solution. We're still early in the spring season, and these provinces need a lot of precipitation.”

In fact, spring is the season when farmers fields get about 50 per cent of their annual precipitation.

Last year was one of the provinces' driest seasons on record, and in 2002, drought losses totalled six billions dollars across Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

The Weather Network's Spring Outlook suggested that precipitation levels would be about average across the Prairies this year. If that happens, many fields will be okay; but if it does not, the situation could be grim.

And it's not just crops that would be affected by a drought. Livestock producers have to worry about having enough feed for their animals. Further north, dry conditions could lead to an intense forest fire season. And in some places, a drought could even mean the loss of wildlife habitat.

For more details on this week's snow and rain in the Prairie provinces, make sure you tune into The Weather Network on TV. Your National forecast comes up at the top and bottom of every hour.

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