Dry in the Northwest with floods in the central U.S.

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There has been no respite from all of the extreme weather across the country. Here in the Inland Northwest, we went from a milder-than-average early winter to the snowiest February in recorded history. The new wetter-than-normal weather pattern continued into early April before conditions turned much drier than normal.

Here in Coeur d’Alene, we haven’t seen a drop of rain during the first 13 days of May. According to Cliff’s records, there were only 3 other years with no measurable amount of moisture during the first week of the month. The driest May in recorded history occurred in 1929 when a puny 0.03 inches was measured.

Despite the recent dry spell, our seasonal total of rain and melted snow is just under 12.50 inches. The normal to date is near 10.50 inches. Last year, we had a healthy 15.25 inches. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, the western half and northeastern portion of Washington as well as extreme northern Idaho are mostly “abnormally dry.” There are a few sections in western Washington that have “moderate drought” conditions.

Our weather over the weekend was very nice across the Northwest. Temperatures warmed into the 80s across many areas, making it a very warm Mother’s Day. Although readings were more than 10 degrees above normal, the record for Sunday in Coeur d’Alene was 90 degrees — set back in 1949.

It looks like our dry spell will be coming to an end, at least for now. There is one storm system that will bring the chance of some rain showers to the region around the middle of the week. Then, a series of storms are expected to bring more rain to the Inland Northwest next week and likely continue through the end of the month. As we get toward the middle of June, our weather should turn drier and warmer in July and August. Cliff and I see a rainy pattern returning to North Idaho in September.

Many of these forecasts depend upon the El Nino phenomenon in the waters of the south-central Pacific Ocean. El Nino is the abnormal warming of sea-surface temperatures that often leads to above normal moisture in the southern U.S. and drier-than-average conditions in the north. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration stated that El Nino is “weak,” but is likely to influence global weather patterns through at least the summer season.

This new El Nino is, at least in part, responsible for the floods in the central portions of the country. Several “bomb cyclones” and a series of storms bringing heavy rainfall over the past several months have led to the closings of hundreds of roads, including a stretch of Interstate 35 near the Kansas and Oklahoma border last week. Some isolated locations near Houston picked up as much as 14 inches of rain in one day from the storm last week.

In some parts of the Midwest, waters along the Mississippi and Missouri rivers have risen to historic levels. The Mississippi River going through St. Louis was expected to be close to 12 feet above flood stage early today. River traffic has been halted along parts of the swollen river.

Farming communities across the central and southern Great Plains and eastward into Dixie have seen their fields look like lakes. Planting of summer crops in the Corn Belt has been delayed due to water-saturated soils.

There will be a brief break from the wet weather pattern in the central U.S. this week, especially in the Great Plains western portions of the Corn Belt. However, more storms with the potential to once again produce moderate to heavy rainfall are expected next week.

Cliff and I believe this pattern of wet weather in the central U.S. will continue into June. In addition to the wet weather, temperatures were very cold for this time of year in that part of the country. Readings dropped into the 40s all the way down into Arkansas last week.

One of the worst flooding events, which was called a “500-year flood,” happened in the Midwest in 1993. It was also known as the Great Flood, as near 150 major rivers and tributaries went over their banks, submerging approximately 15 million acres of farmland and over 70 towns. Damage was near $15 billion. Cliff tells me that conditions right now are actually worse than they were in 1993 in the Midwest.

And, during these extreme weather patterns, where you have floods on one side, you have drought on the other. In the Southern Hemisphere, Australia has been suffering through drought over the last 3 years. The first 4 months of 2019 have been the driest in recorded history across the southern portion of the continent. Officials are concerned that with this El Nino pattern, the drought pattern will continue through much of this year, which will undoubtedly hurt many crops.

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Contact Randy Mann at randy@longrangeweather.com

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