Record dry streak exacerbates Southeast drought
Tuesday, November 15, 2016, 2:56 - Dry weather has been the norm across many areas of the country during October and the early stages of November, doing very little for areas dealing with drought.
The areas affected by the dry spell and extreme drought continues to grow week after week, fueled by a below average precipitation pattern that has extended across Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Texas and as far west as Colorado. Beyond the southeast, extreme to exceptional drought conditions continue across a great extension of central and southern California (but that is nothing new).
The U.S. Drought Monitor Report published on November 1 shows how it increased from 19.4 per cent of the contiguous US during the beginning of October to 26.8 percent by the end of the month. The drought has been extending progressively through many areas of the south and southeast where a considerable number of observatories have not seen a drop of rain.
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The drought situation has been even more dramatic for areas of the south, where the numbers escalated very rapidly from near 10 percent in early October to 42 per cent at the end of the month. In the southeast, the drought intensification was not as intense but still went up from 25 to 39 per cent.
Extreme to exceptional drought conditions now extend from central Mississippi across northern Alabama and Georgia into southern Tennessee and extreme northwest South Carolina and southwest North Carolina.
Record dry weather streak for major cities in the south
A solid high pressure ridge has been dominating over the southeast during much of October and early November keeping the storm track well to the north of the region. In early October, eastern areas of Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas did see significant rain from Hurricane Matthew, representing a notable exception to the prevailing dry weather experienced in the southeast and east US.
But many locations of the south have not seen measurable rain since the month of September, a record for some of them in Alabama, Mississippi Georgia and the Carolinas. Birmingham, Alabama has been dry for 51 days and 30 days for cities like Greenville and Columbia in South Carolina or Charlotte, North Carolina.
Low precipitation together with record heat has led to very dry surface conditions which have made the drought situation even more extreme in several states. Water restrictions and wildfires have been haunting several areas from Tennessee into northern Alabama.
Wildfires force evacuations
As the drought worsens, so do the number of wildfires burning across the Southeast. Thousands of acres across North Carolina, Georgia, Tennesse, and Kentucky have been consumed by blazes thus far. States of emergency have been declared in Tennessee, North Carolina, and Kentucky.
In North Carolina, the so-called "Party Rock Fire" burning in Chimney Rock State Park south of Asheville has prompted mandatory evacuation orders for nearby residents. The fire had spread to encompass nearly 2,000 acres as of Saturday morning, and was only 15 percent contained.
In Georgia, the "Rough Ridge Fire" in Chattahoochee National Forest has expanded to more than 13,000 acres and was only 20 percent contained as of Saturday morning.