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Drought relief may be on the horizon for Venezuela as nation copes with hydroelectric energy crisis

Venezuela's government has implemented drastic measures to combat the nation's electricity crisis that has been fueled by an ongoing drought.

Over the past month, the government announced that in order to conserve energy, public employees would only go in to work on Monday and Tuesday, and that there would be daily four-hour countrywide blackouts, the Associated Press reported. These measures were preceded by an earlier decree that would give public employees Fridays off as well.

Venezuela president Nicolas Maduro has adjusted the country's time zone a half of an hour ahead so there would be more daylight during the evening when energy consumption reaches its peak. Maduro has even asked women across the country to curb their use of hair dryers, Reuters reported.

According to the World Energy Council (WEC), hydroelectricity provides the bulk of the nation's electricity supply and the majority of the electric power comes from the Guri Hydroelectric Power Plant, located on the Caroni River in the northeastern part of the country.

Maduro recently said in a televised address that the water levels at the nation's largest dam had fallen to near minimum operating level, according to the AP.

Rainfall across the country has been about 20-25 percent of normal for the most populated areas since 2013, AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Rob Miller said.

In more isolated regions it can be as low as 15-25 percent, he added.

While outside experts have pointed to government mismanagement as one reason for the electricity crisis, the AP reports that Maduro is pointing the finger at El Niño.

El Niño appears to be the main influence with regards to the lack of rainfall, Miller said.

"Typically, when El Nino occurs, stronger wind shear across Venezuela can disrupt the daily thunderstorm formation across the country, leading to lighter rainfall amounts," Miller said.

In late April, the United Nations reported that 60 million have been impacted worldwide through droughts, flooding and other types of extreme weather attributed to the strong El Niño.

This is not the first time Venezuela has been forced to institute blackouts as the result of drought. The 2009-2010 drought caused the country to reduce industrial production, and fine large users for excessive consumption, according to the WEC.

Venezuela's dry season typically runs from December through March, but the country is now heading toward the heart of its rainy season. In terms of drought relief, some good news is ahead in the near future and possibly in the long term.

"The weather pattern for the next week or two will favor daily shower and thunderstorm activity across the country, especially in the south and west," Miller said.

So far this year, parts of the northwestern region are at or above normal rainfall totals.

As the El Niño continues to evolve toward neutral conditions, and eventually La Niña conditions by the end of 2016, that should allow rain to return in abundance, Miller explained.

"While it's too early to say whether enough rain will return to erase the drought, there should be enough rain to help at the very least," he said.


Have questions, comments, or a story to share? Email Kevin Byrne at Kevin.Byrne@accuweather.com, follow him on Twitter at @Accu_Kevin. Follow us @breakingweather, or on Facebook.