Saturday, December 9, 2023

Orange County Upgraded to Moderate Drought

Most of Orange County has been upgraded to a moderate drought, according to data released today by the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Orange County was initially placed under an “abnormally dry” drought, the lowest of the levels, on July 16, 2022 (story here). This was referred to as a level D-0 drought. Today’s upgrade brings the level to D-1. The highest level on the scale is a D-4 drought, which is considered “exceptional.”

The moderate drought now encompasses northern Orange, southern Ulster, Putnam, and southern Dutchess Counties. The area expands into all of the New England states. Areas across the New England coast have been upgraded to a severe drought.

Water levels in the region’s reservoirs are continuing to drop. The Schoharie Reservoir in the Catskills is down to 55.5% capacity. The Cannonsville Reservoir, also in the Catskills, dropped to 67.3% capacity. The largest of the seven reservoirs is the Pepacton Reservoir in Delaware County, which holds 140.2 billion gallons of water. Is has fallen to an 81% capacity.

Across the seven major reservoirs in the area, the average capacity has dropped to 81.9%, according to data provided by the NYC Environmental Protection. On July 16, 2022, The Newburgh News reported the average level was 87.7%. On July 29, 2022, the average level was at 83.8%. In less than three weeks, the average level dropped 6%. The normal level for the reservoirs is 89.6% this time of year.

The drought conditions come after a prolonged dry spell and two intense heat waves. Newark International Airport recorded their driest July ever, with just 0.55″ of rain for the entire month. The Village of Harriman in southern Orange County already began implementing water restrictions last month.

Vail’s Gate Tower, a weather tower operated by The Newburgh News (forecast and data here), recorded 1.7″ of rain for the entire month of July, compared to 3.772″ in July of 2021 and 4.406″ in July of 2020. There were only five days of recorded rain in July of 2022, compared to 21 days in July of 2021 and 10 days in July of 2020.

The current heat wave, last week’s heat wave, and a prolonged period without rain has contributed to the drought, according to the National Weather Service in Upton, NY.

Today’s high temperature reached 100.2 degrees, according to data recorded at Vail’s Gate Tower. This is the third day in a row with temperatures exceeding 90 degrees, with yesterday reaching 92.4 degrees and Tuesday hitting 93.8 degrees.

The previous heat wave extended from July 19 through July 24, 2022 with temperatures breaking 90 degrees for six consecutive days. The month of July saw a total of 11 days over 90 degrees.

There appears to be no end in sight to the heat. Temperatures are forecast to exceed 90 degrees every day through at least Tuesday.

As for the rain, there is a chance of flash flooding tomorrow. A tropical air mass already in place could bring storms with periods of moderate to heavy rainfall. Rain of such intensity is likely to runoff and not absorb into the ground.

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