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Wednesday, June 12, 2013
Once upon a time, just six months ago, drought was beginning to get serious in Southwest Virginia.
On Jan. 8, the U.S. Drought Monitor placed the entire region within its moderate drought category.
Smith Mountain Lake was 5 feet below full pond, Carvins Cove was a foot and a half below its normal early January level, and many rivers were running weak and slow. There was starting to be some concern about what would happen if the drought held through the rest of winter into spring and summer.
It didn’t, as Roanoke having rain nine of the first 11 days in this early June loudly attests.
On Jan. 14 to 17, the drought hit a brick wall.
Over those four days, 4 to 7 inches of liquid precipitation was common across Southwest Virginia.
The last half-inch to inch and a half of that precipitation on Jan. 17 was a heavy wet snow of 3 to 10 inches over most of the region, crashing trees and power lines.
Rain and snow through the rest of January, February and March more or less kept pace with normal, and the drought area continued to shrink.
By early March, the only spot of slight drought — labeled “abnormally dry” on the U.S. Drought Monitor — was along the Interstate 64 corridor from around Bath and Alleghany counties east to Lexington and Buena Vista.
Some 10-plus inches of wet snow that fell in those areas on March 5 and 6 — a storm that brushed Roanoke with a couple of inches and not even an inch at Blacksburg — wiped that spot off the map entirely.
And there hasn’t been any official drought in western Virginia since.
Periods of rain and abnormally late snow in March and April kept the ground moist. A surplus of rain relative to normal in May and June has taken us past moist to saturated, with flooding having long replaced dryness as the local weather concern.
Normal rainfall for the entire month of June is 4 inches at Blacksburg and 3.83 inches at Roanoke. Through the first 10 days, Blacksburg has already topped its normal for the entire month at 4.48 inches, while Roanoke is just short at 3.52.
Year-to-date rainfall is 6 or more inches above normal at each site.
Undoubtedly, the shift to frequent weather patterns with strong high pressure in the far northern latitudes, forcing the jet stream farther south than typical, has kept vigorous storm systems moving through and close to the area deep into spring and, now, early summer on the meteorological calendar.
You can think of it as being about a month or so behind schedule on the calendar of typical weather patterns. What we’re seeing now is more akin to early to middle May than June.
There’s still plenty of time for things to flip. Many folks with agricultural interests would appreciate a couple of weeks of warm, dry weather right now. As of this moment, there’s no sign of that happening soon in our part of the country.
The next round of rain and storms is due to arrive on Thursday.
Weather Journal appears on Wednesdays.
Weather JournalMidday update: More ice likely later