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Drought Update: Heavy Rain Brings Relief To The West

December 18, 2014

UPDATED By WeatherBug's Tim Barnes

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The past week brought more heavy, widespread rain and snow to the Northeast and the West Coast, which provided much-needed moisture and drought relief. The main benefactor with this recent moisture influx has been northern and central California, where staggering rainfall totals of up to 20 inches have accumulated over the past two weeks. Although these recent storms have brought abundant moisture to the nation`s drought areas, many others are still left suffering.

Earlier this week a storm developed off the Mid-Atlantic, which spurred widespread moderate-to-heavy rain and snow across New England. This fresh dousing of moisture totaled from 1.5 to 4.7 inches of mostly rain, which helped to remove areas of dryness from eastern New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and southern Maine and New Hampshire. Further in-land, precipitation totals dropped off significantly, causing scant relief across parts Pennsylvania, northwest New Jersey and western New York.

Drought conditions across the Southeast continued to worsen over the week, as rainfall was little-to-none across the region. Moderate drought was reported to have expanded further along the central Gulf Coast, while abnormal dryness spread further into south-central Louisiana, south-central Mississippi, east-central Georgia, southwestern North Carolina, and the extreme western Florida Panhandle. Even with the widespread drought afflicting the region, decent rainfall over the past month has caused conditions to improve across north-central Florida and into south-central Georgia, which prompted the removal of the abnormal-to-moderate drought.

A brief stint of snow and rain made its way across the Central U.S. over the week. Totals ranged from 0.25-to-0.75 inches of rain and snow across the Northern Plains and Upper Midwest, with the Southern Great Plains and Central Plains seeing rainfall totals of up to 2 inches across the region. Yet, even with this fresh influx of moisture, no relief was reported across the region due to a very dry. Shortages in precipitation across the Tennessee and Lower Mississippi valleys for the past month have caused drought to spread eastward into southwestern Kentucky, western Tennessee, and northern Louisiana.

After two weeks of widespread heavy rain, improvements finally begin to shine through across the West. Major streams and rivers overflowed with the fresh rainfall, totaling from 4 to 12 inches, and causing flooding to strike out across north-central California. The excess runoff led to a good increase in the capacity of major reservoirs across northern and central California, but even with the great leaps made, levels remain well below average for mid-December. The past two weeks has brought a whole category improvement from exceptional to extreme dryness across north-central California and along the central California coast. In addition, the mountains to the east of San Diego and south of San Bernardino in Southern California received 6 to 12 inches of rain, which caused massive improvements in drought conditions across Southern California, as well as along the California-Arizona border. Precipitation amounts were much lower to the south and east of the coast, bringing little-to-no change in drought status across the Southwest and the Great Basin. Further North, moderate rain and snow fell across the Pacific Northwest, bringing about the removal of dryness in the extreme north of Idaho.

Looking ahead, this coming weekend brings heavy rain and snow to the Pacific Northwest and the northern Rockies, while the Southeast and the Upper Midwest will see a spot of rain and snow as well. Early next week, Pacific moisture will continue to funnel in more rain across the Northwest, while the East will see a major storm system form, bringing with it the possibility of spreading widespread heavy rain and snow from the Mississippi Valley to the Eastern Seaboard.

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Source: U.S. Drought Monitor

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