The boundaries on the drought map changed little this week, but the actual rainfall deficits got worse this week.
This week’s US drought Monitor report shows little overall change in the drought status across New York State. For the Finger Lakes in particular, the changes in the boundaries were minor and only in the areas nearby.
The Finger Lakes itself remains in a Level 2 (Severe) Drought. There was no significant change to the areas locally classified as being in a Level 2 Drought. Across New York as a whole, however, the percent area under this classification dropped from almost 27% last week, to just over 24% this week.
Likewise, the overall, statewide number of area seeing any level of drought conditions also dropped slightly. Now, 11% of the state is drought free, compared to 10.43% last week.
Most of the changes shown in the map were in far southwest New York and in Chenango County.
As the drought continues, it becomes increasingly likely that the area could see its first declaration of Level 3 (Extreme) Drought. Even if the Drought Report for New York as a whole stayed steady or slightly improved, as I explain below, the drought only got worse this week.
Recent and Expected Rainfall
As has happened numerous times this summer, the promise of rain for the Finger Lakes was a disappointment during the past week, with the focal point for rain just east of the area.
Some parts of the northern Finger Lakes saw no rain at all during the last week. Most of the remainder of the region saw less than a half inch of rain, with a few pockets doing modestly well in the half to one inch range.
A normal week at this stage of the summer should bring around an inch of rain for most areas. As a result, rainfall deficits only increased this week.
Areas east of I-81 once again saw some widespread, significant rain with some localized areas of flash flooding.
Unfortunately, the outlook for the next week is not favorable. A cold front will bring some showers and thunderstorms to the area Friday night, but most areas will see less than half an inch of rain. Behind the front, high pressure builds in, keeping the Finger Lakes bone dry through the middle of next week.
There is some hope for a more active weather pattern towards next weekend as copious amounts of moisture from the Gulf of Mexico build northward. It is too early for any details, but at least there is something to slightly hope for.
The overall pattern of warm, dry weather may very well persist into the fall, however.
Drought Warning issued
As the drought continues to worsen, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) has upgraded the drought watch to a drought warning for areas roughly west of I-81. In all, the 22 western most counties of New York are under the drought warning, including Tompkins County and the city of Ithaca.
While no mandatory restrictions are instituted with the drought warning, water conservation practices are becoming more and more important.
The Drought Warning is the second of four levels of drought alerts the NYSDEC issues. Next on the scale is a Drought Emergency, which could kick in mandatory water restrictions. The final level is a Drought Disaster, which could bring about emergency legislation and federal disaster assistance.