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Rain falls and so does the mercury

Fredericksburg was drenched by 0.63 inches of rain Monday, quenching a two-month dry spell that had settled over the region.

Under normal conditions, October would have already experienced 0.67 inches of rain by Monday.

The month’s rain deficit was nearly made up by Monday’s storms.

September was also dry. The area received 1.30 inches of rain compared to a normal 3.33 inches for that month.

Under average conditions, the area would have received 32.83 inches for 2013 by now. However, only 27.50 inches have fallen on the region so far.

Typically, autumn is the driest time of the year in the eastern United States, said National Weather Service hydrologist Jason Elliott.

“The rain that typically does happen in September and October results from tropical systems, like what’s happening now,” he said.

Monday’s storms were the result of a cold front moving east across the United States. The remnants of Tropical Storm Karen, which had dissipated by Monday, fed into the front and contributed heavier rainfall.

Elliott said the only consequence of a drier-than-normal September and October is less vibrant fall foliage.

In addition to the much-needed rainfall, the front returned cooler temperatures to the area.

Temperatures had climbed above 80 every day since last Wednesday. More typical autumn temperatures in the low 70s and high 60s are forecasted for the upcoming week.

Monday’s storms also created a heightened worry about tornadoes in the area.

The National Weather Service issued a tornado watch Monday morning that lasted until 5 p.m., along with severe thunderstorm warnings.

The city of Fredericksburg and Stafford, King George, Spotsylvania, Culpeper and Orange counties were included in the watch.

The area also experienced a tornado warning around noon, which happens when there are radar indications of tornadic activity, but the warning expired without incident.

Tornado watches are relatively rare for October, said NWS meteorologist Jim Lee.

Peak tornado season is during the months of April, May and June, but convective systems can occur year-round.

“It’s not climatologically normal, but it’s not unheard of,” Lee said.

The largest wind gust registered by the University of Mary Washington weather station Monday was 36 mph.

The NWS warned that showers and isolated thunderstorms could cause localized flooding, especially in urban areas.

A coastal flood advisory was issued for the Potomac River Monday, as well as a small craft advisory that extended to all local rivers. That advisory continues into today for the tidal Potomac. That small craft advisory may last through Wednesday, the NWS said.

Nearly 4,000 employees of the NWS have been working without pay since the government shutdown began last week.

Those employees are required to report to work since they support emergency operations, including forecasting weather, issuing warnings, monitoring weather and creating computer models.

Employees who do other types of research for the NWS, such as long-term climate modeling, do not report for duty during a shutdown.

However, the House approved a plan to offer government employees back-pay for the length of their furlough.

Lindley Estes: 540/735-1976