Friday, September 29, 2023

Another Heat Wave Coming as Drought Spreads

Passing showers and thundershowers during the recent heat wave were not nearly enough to end the recent drought. Another heat wave is approaching later next week.

According to the forecast page for Vail’s Gate Tower, a weather tower operated by The Newburgh News, a second heat wave is coming. A series of warm fronts are forecast to move across the area, bringing another round of hot and humid conditions. Temperatures are expected to rise into the lower 90s on Tuesday and Wednesday. By Thursday, temperatures should soar to 96 degrees and create heat index values well in excess of 100 degrees.

Officials from the U.S. Drought Monitor have continued the drought for Orange County and expanded it to other areas of the region, according to newly released data issued yesterday.

Orange County was first placed under the lowest level of drought conditions on July 16, 2022 (story here). At the time, it did not include the Catskills. The local drought has now expanded to include parts of Sullivan, Ulster, Putnam and Dutchess Counties. It extends further northward into the Capital District.

Orange County and the surrounding areas are currently under a “D0” drought, which is considered abnormally dry. The Village of Harriman has already begun issuing mandatory water restrictions. Staten Island, areas north of Albany, and many portions of western New York have now advanced to a “D1” drought, which is classified as moderate. Further east, portions of Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and extreme southern New Hampshire are now under a “D2” drought, which is severe.

Local reservoirs have not approached danger zones, but the water levels are noticeably dropping. Two weeks ago, The Newburgh News reported the reservoir capacities averaged approximately 87%. Since then, the water levels have fallen to an average of 83.8% spanning over seven reservoirs. The normal capacity is 90.9%.

As of today, the NYC Department of Environmental Protection reports the Schoharie Reservoir is down to 60.3% capacity, which can hold up to 17.6 billion gallons of water. The Rondout Reservoir remains 97.2% full and holds up to 49.6 billion gallons. The largest of the seven reservoirs is the Pepacton Reservoir in northern Ulster County, which holds 140.2 billion gallons. It is currently down to 83.1% capacity.

Recent rainfall was isolated and came in brief downpours, which resulted in rapid runoff and prevented the ground from absorbing much water. However, it was isolated to small areas across the region and was not widespread.

With only three days remaining in July, this month produced 1.7″ of rain combined over five days, according to data collected at Vail’s Gate Tower. Most of it came from brief downpours associated with thunderstorms. On July 2, 0.77″ of rain fell. On July 18, 0.63″ of rain was recorded. On July 22, 0.23″ of rain was logged.

In comparison, July of 2021 saw 3.772″ of rain over 21 days. This July’s rainfall so far is two inches shorter with 16 less rainy days.

July of 2020 saw even more rain. A total of 4.406″ of rain was recorded for the month over an 11 day span. This July falls short of that by 2.7″ and saw six less days of rain.

There appears to be no relief in sight. There is a chance of showers later today and tonight. After that, the only rain currently in the forecast is a slight chance of a passing thundershower midday Tuesday.

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