CHARLESTON – Gov. Jim Justice has declared a state of emergency for all 55 West Virginia counties due to a prolonged shortage of rainfall that has caused moderate drought conditions across much of the state and severe drought conditions in southern West Virginia.
Statewide, over the past 90 days, West Virginia has received 2-5 inches less rainfall than normal, with some pockets of 5-7-inch rainfall deficits across the southern half of the state.
As a result, numerous rivers, lakes, and streams are experiencing extremely low water levels; lowering harvest amounts, limiting water supplies for livestock, and increasing the risk of forest fires, among other potential dangers.
This state of emergency follows a proclamation, issued by Gov. Justice on Sept. 20, 2019 and amended on Sept. 23, which bans all outdoor burning throughout the state with limited exceptions. The burning ban is still in effect.
Drought conditions in all 55 counties are forecast to escalate.
As part of today's state of emergency, the Governor has directed state officials to:
• Implement the West Virginia Emergency Operations Plan as it relates to drought emergency response.
• Place the state Emergency Operations Center in a stand-by status, unless activation is deemed necessary and appropriate.
• Restrict the use of water for the purposes of dust control at construction and industrial sites, except as required under terms of permits issued for the same.
• Monitor existing water sources for the presence of contaminants, including harmful algae blooms, which tend to propagate more readily in warmer and shallower waters.
Gov. Justice has also issued voluntary guidelines for the residents of West Virginia to:
• Cease non-agricultural irrigation in the state, including those for strictly recreational purposes.
• Limit washing or cleaning vehicles and/or structures where not otherwise required by law.
• Limit use of public drinking water systems to minimal standards for good personal hygiene, food preparation, laundry, livestock, and pets, and other reasonable purposes.
• Cease the filling of private swimming pools.
The state of emergency will remain in effect until rescinded by further proclamation.