Wet & Stormy July: Some Drought Relief

Posted: August 2, 2016, 9:26 am by sgraham

July has remained relatively dry across the Northeast (with some exceptions, we'll touch upon that later). As of July 26th, before the locally heavy thunderstorms that plagued the region for the last few days of the month, many areas dipped further into a drought. This resulted in some water restrictions for areas that depend on reservoirs as their main water source, such as in northern New Jersey, Long Island, and parts of Connecticut. Just like June, July remained active in terms of severe weather and flooding events, particularly from July 29th - 31st. Flash flooding turned roads into violent rivers, such as in Ellicott City, MD, and other locations into lakes, such as Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, NJ.

Much of the Northeast is in a moderate drought as of July 26th, 2016, while eastern Long Island and parts of New England have fallen into a severe drought. Image courtesy of The National Drought Mitigation Center.

 

Rainfall surpluses/deficits for the month of July 2016. 

In terms of severe weather, about half of the month featured severe weather of some sort across the region. In fact, one of the most significant outbreaks in New England occured on back to back days, July 22nd and 23rd. On the 22nd, storms downed plenty of trees with strong winds and even snapped utility poles in half. Then on the 23rd, another line of storms brought damaging winds and pressed down from VT into southern NH, even downing trees just west of Boston Metro and in Providence, RI. Sadly, most places only received 0.25 to at most 1.00" from the storms, which didn't help alleviate the drought much.

Radar image showing the strong storms from July 23rd courtesy of the College of Dupage.

Severe weather didn't only occur in New England, however, as further south into New Jersey, two tornadoes were reported: an EF-0 on July 14th, which destroyed part of a barn in White Township, Warren County, and an EF-1 on the 25th in Readington and Branchburg near the Hunterdon/Somerset county border. The 25th featured the most widespread and destructive storms, with numerous reports across Pennsylvania into the northern half of New Jersey. Downed trees and power lines made travel treacherous and the clean-up long-lasting. The most notable severe weather, however, was flooding from slow-moving thunderstorms during the last few days of July. A stalled frontal boundary was the culprit, providing a train track for multiple disturbances to ride along. As a result, consecutive days of heavy thunderstorms gave much needed rain to drought-stricken areas, but proved to be too much for a couple of locales.

Crop damage near the White Township, NJ tornado. Picture by meteorologist Mike Mihalik

As mentioned before, Ellicott City, MD on July 30th saw 6" of rain within two hours, and suffered severe damage to their historic section. Flood waters easily and swiftly carried cars and chunks of buildings away (Here's a photo of the flooding: https://twitter.com/JustinWeather/status/759559262028914688). About 135 miles to the north and east, Princeton, New Jersey was suffering from flooding issues as well, closing down main roadways, stranding cars, and even flooding a cafe in nearby West Windsor Township. A similar set-up occurred the following day, this time focusing on Jackson and Readington in New Jersey. Rides at Six Flags were quickly shut down with attendees wading through knee-high deep water. 

The heat and humidity were a crucial factor in helping to sustain severe weather during the middle of the month. In fact, LaGuardia Airport featured a streak of eight 90+ degree days, with heat indices easily reaching into the 100s across much of the metro areas within the mid-Atlantic.

 

Highest temperatures within the main cities across the Northeast for the month of July 2016.

Director of Forensic and Data Services / Lead Meteorologist
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