The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Will Isaac bring rainfall here?
By RUSTY DENNEN
Despite some scattered summer storms, the Fredericksburg area, along with much of Virginia, is dry.
It’s so dry that the city and surrounding counties—as well as a large swath of the state west of Richmond—are in a moderate drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
The remnants of Hurricane Isaac could bring some relief early next week, forecasters say.
Still, Virginia has fared well compared with many other states. Much of the midsection of the country is in extreme to exceptional drought, with crop failures that haven’t been seen in decades.
Through Wednesday, Fredericksburg had received 20.55 inches of rain, according to the University of Mary Washington weather station. That’s 8.24 inches below normal for the period.
The year began on a dry note, with January logging 2.33 inches of rain, according to the UMW weather station. The normal amount for the month is 4.02 inches. February was an improvement, with 3.96 inches, well over the 2.78-inch norm.
Conditions turned progressively drier through March, with 1.82 inches, and April, with 2.17 inches. The norms for those months are 4.04 inches and 3.22 inches, respectively.
During the first week of April, half a dozen wildfires burned in western Virginia. For the entire month, there was only one storm that dumped more than an inch of rain here. That was April 22, when 1.18 inches fell.
In May there were only two rainfalls of more than six-tenths of an inch. And in June, although there was rain on eight days, only one day saw more than half an inch—0.76 inch fell on June 1.
The month was the driest so far this year, with 1.56 inches.
July was well below the 4.23-inch norm, at 3.12 inches.
The situation has prompted some conservation measures.
Stafford County, for example, has voluntary restrictions in effect on outdoor watering with sprinklers.
Thunderstorms and tropical storms are typically the biggest rainmakers here in August and September, the National Weather Service says.
Hurricane Irene drenched the area with several inches of rain last Aug. 28.
It appears that Hurricane Isaac, which hammered New Orleans and Biloxi this week, could bring tropical showers here by late Sunday and into Labor Day, according to the Weather Service.
Besides parched farmers’ fields, a visible reminder of the area’s dry conditions is the Rappahannock River, which has been flowing low and slow.
Last week the flow was less than 125 cubic feet per second, below the average flow for this time of year. Some storms upstream on Monday briefly recharged the river, but it again looks more like a rock garden above the fall line.
The precipitation outlook through mid-September is anyone’s guess. The Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center is calling for equal chances of below-normal, normal and above-normal rainfall along the East Coast.
U.S. Drought Monitor: droughtmonitor.unl.edu
UMW online weather site: umwva.alerteagle.com
Rusty Dennen: 540/374-5431