How much did Monday’s rain help the Finger Lakes drought?

Monday July 25 2016 rain amounts and severe weather reports.
Most of the Finger Lakes got between 0.5″ and 1.5″ of rain on Monday.

Most of the Finger Lakes got between 0.5″ and 1.5″ of rain on Monday.

Monday July 25, 2016 Weather Summary

The Finger Lakes finally saw a soaking rain on Monday as two lines of thunderstorms moved through. Each of these lines of storms had large areas of steady precipitation behind the initial storms which resulted in the widespread higher rainfall amounts.

With only a few isolated exceptions, the majority of the region saw rain amounts around an inch, give or take a few tenths. Areas north and just east of Buffalo, which is also in a serious drought, saw even higher amounts on the order of 2-3 inches.

The first line of thunderstorms moved through during the morning, and thus had less energy to work with for severe weather. One or two reports of wind damage were from the early line, but the majority of the region’s severe weather came during the second round.

Areas across the Southern Tier that mostly missed out on the first round of storms were able to heat up significantly more than areas just to the north. This extra heat provided the fuel for storms, while the sharp gradient between the hot air and rain cooled air to the north provided the focal point for storms.

Numerous reports of wind damage stretched across the Southern Tier and northern Pennsylvania. A few tornado warnings were even issued in northeastern Pennsylvania. No word yet on whether any tornadoes were confirmed though. There were also two flash flood reports, with roads washed out in Allegheny County.

Drought Relief?

finger lakes drought summer 2016 precipitation deficits 180 days
Precipitation amounts over the last 180 days are generally 4″ to 8″ below normal across the Finger Lakes. Click to enlarge.

The Finger Lakes and surrounding regions certainly needed a rain event like this. Such a widespread, soaking rain will help slow the progress of the drought. Plants will likely respond positively to the rain, so it may be time to break out the lawn mower again finally.

I also think it was a benefit that more rain did not fall at once. The slow and steady approach will do more for the soil and plants than seeing multiple inches in a short amount of time. Anything more and there will be excess runoff at best and flooding problems at worse.

That being said, this event is far from a drought buster. On average during the summer, about 0.5″ to 1″ of rain falls in any given week. Monday’s rain meets and, for some, exceeds the weekly quota. However, a drought is the product of a long period of below normal rain fall, and a single near to slightly wetter than normal week will only result in a small, short term improvement.

Looking at the last 180 days, going back to late January, most of the Finger Lakes is 4″ to 8″ below the normal amount of precipitation. In other words, to get back to normal, we would need similar rain events every week for the next 6-10 weeks.

The rain yesterday will certainly help, but there is a long way yet to go.

The next chance for rain in the Finger Lakes will be on Thursday. A stormy pattern should persist into the weekend, giving the Finger Lakes more opportunity to chip away, or at least slow down the drought.

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Follow Meteorologist Drew Montreuil:
Meteorologist Drew Montreuil has been forecasting the weather in the Finger Lakes region since 2006 and has degrees in meteorology from SUNY Oswego (B.S. with Honors) and Cornell (M.S.). Drew and his wife have four young boys. When not working or playing with the boys, he is probably out for a run through the countryside.