Will tropical systems end Maryland's drought?
The new Drought Monitor map for this week is in, and for the first time since April 2009 it shows the entire state to be unusually dry. Nearly one-third of the state's geography is in moderate to extreme drought, with the worst of it west of Frederick.
More than a few times in my 30 years in Maryland, these summer dry spells have been ended by a brush with a tropical storm, or its remnants. Hanna in September 2008, Ernesto in September 2006 and Tammy in October 2005 come to mind.
We've written recently about the possibility that the patterns in the Atlantic may be about to change. And now comes AccuWeather.com with a rather confident prediction that we are, indeed, about to see a sharp change in our rain fortunes - albeit too late for many farmers.
The commercial weather company is calling it, rather inelegantly, "Troptober" - suggesting that tropical weather will be the dominant force at work here next month. Their thinking is that the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico are about to start boiling, tossing off tropical systems that have an increasing chance to make landfall in the northern Gulf region, or to track up the East Coast.
That, they believe, would mean improved chances that the dry and droughty region from Louisiana to southern New England is about to see some repeated, heavy rain:
"Repeating downpours could add up to a foot of rain in some locations, not only leading to street flooding and highway slow-downs, but perhaps all the way to small stream and even some river flooding.
"One tropical system alone can easily drop several inches of rain and erase the drought or abnormally dry pattern in these areas. There is the potential for several such systems to move northward. The details of which are not known at this time."
The National Hurricane Center today is already tracking a new tropical depression - the 15th of the season - in the western Caribbean (satellite photo). But it appears headed for Central America. Hurricane Watches are already posted for parts of Nicaragua and Honduras.
Let's see how good AccuWeather.com's experts really are.