For the second year in a row the Great Smoky Mountains has been experiencing drought conditions not seen for more than 100 years, but finally the Smokies are getting much needed rain.
Hiking around the Smokies one can see how low water levels are and how much dryer and browner the plant life is even in higher elevation of the Great Smoky Mountains national park which can see as much as 85 inches of rain a year qualifying it as a temperate rain forest.
Rhododendron plants leaves curl when stressed due to extreme cold or lack of water and the photo here was taken last week which clearly shows a drought stressed bush that is along the Noland Divide Trail at an elevation of more than 3,500 feet.
2 years of back to back droughts in 2007 and 2008 is taking its toll on weakened plants and may further hasten the demise of our beloved hemlocks which are waging what appears to be a losing war against the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid infestation plaguing the park and surrounding areas.
Businesses have been hit hard by 2 years worth of droughts and locals are having to deal with an unprecedented 20% hike in electric power costs from the TVA of which a large portion of is due to the lack of enough cheaper and environmentally friendly hydroelectric power.
The last thing we need to do in the Smokies is have to buy more dirty power produced by coal which is already acidifying our creeks, streams and rivers seriously effecting the higher altitude aquatic environments and choking our air with life and plant damaging ozone. Global Warming? Oh yea that too!
Add to all of this the pressure of municipalities and homeowners to maintain enough drinking and household water and you can see why were are all singing in the rain these past few days even though our beloved tourists may not be so happy as to spend more time indoors as they wanted.
A week or so of rain is not going to get us out of the woods with our drought but it sure will help.
The plus side is now with a nice cool snap we can have some stunning fall colors and since we are getting some much needed moisture the colors may last a little longer rather than a quick flame out. We are hoping that the 2008 fall leaf season peak will run from mid October to mid November and we are already starting to get sporadic changes in mid elevations of around 2,000 feet.
Another nice bonus to the rain is our waterfalls will be at their best instead of the measly trickles we have seen the last few weeks. Rainbow Falls in North Carolina was almost dry and even Mouse Falls in Big Creek pictured on the right was running lighter than normal when this photo was taken last week.