National Drought Mitigation Center


Sandy erases drought from Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states

November 1, 2012

The remnant of Hurricane Sandy erased all moderate drought and abnormally dry conditions in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, with the exception of areas of central Virginia and upstate New York, said this week’s U.S. Drought Monitor author, Michael J. Brewer.

Statistics released with the map showed that as of Oct. 30, 4.97 percent of the Northeast was categorized as abnormally dry, and there was no drought in the area. A week earlier, 13.66 percent of the area was abnormally dry, 4.21 percent was in moderate drought, and 0.47 percent was in severe drought.

Brewer, who is with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Climatic Data Center, wrote in the narrative accompanying the map, “This U.S. Drought Monitor week has been dominated primarily by the passing of Hurricane Sandy and its remnants. This powerful, far-reaching storm passed along the East Coast before making landfall near Atlantic City, N.J., on Monday and combining with a mid-latitude low pressure system as it continued its trek through the Mid-Atlantic and into the Northeast. In its wake, the storm dumped up to over eight inches of rain in Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware. The highest total, 9.57 inches as of Tuesday morning, fell at the Oceana Nas/Soucek airport in Virginia. States up the coastline from North Carolina to New York, Connecticut, and Rhode Island experienced significant flooding while wind and wave events were felt as far west as Wisconsin and Illinois. In the Appalachian Mountains unofficial totals of over two feet of snow fell in western Maryland and nearly that amount in parts of West Virginia by Tuesday morning.”

However, he noted, “With the exception of the East Coast of Florida and coastal North Carolina, beneficial precipitation largely eluded the Southeast.” Other parts of North Carolina and parts of Georgia and Alabama showed increases in moderate drought and abnormally dry conditions.

Statistics released with the U.S. Drought Monitor map showed that 50.35 percent of the country was in moderate drought or worse, down slightly from 51.71 percent the week before. The map showed 32.01 percent in severe drought or worse, down from 32.32 percent a week earlier; 15.92 percent in extreme drought or worse, down from 16.32 percent the week before; and 4.91 percent in exceptional drought, an increase from 4.88 the preceding week.

Oklahoma saw a slight expansion of extreme drought, as some areas have now gone 30 days without rain, Brewer said. Texas showed improvements in the east and expansion of exceptional drought along the south coast.

Rains in the Midwest and Plains brought improvements to Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Iowa and North Dakota. The map also showed that conditions improved slightly in Wyoming, but deteriorated in Arizona and New Mexico.

Drought was unchanged in Hawaii and Alaska, and in the hardest-hit contiguous states of Nebraska, Kansas and South Dakota.

Brad Rippey, a meteorologist in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of the Chief Economist, said analysis of this week’s map found that:

  • Hay in drought dipped to 62 percent, down two percentage points from a week ago and down seven points from the Sept. 25 peak.
  • Cattle in drought also fell two percentage points to 69 percent, and is down seven points from Sept. 25.
  • Winter wheat in drought decreased for the sixth consecutive week, although drought still covers nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of the production area. In some of the hardest-hit drought areas, winter wheat has been very slow to emerge this fall, and the crop is running out of time before cold weather permanently arrives. For example, only 23 percent of South Dakota’s crop had emerged by Oct. 28, versus the five-year average of 88 percent. The first winter wheat condition report of the season, dated Oct. 28, indicated that 15 percent of the U.S. winter wheat was rated very poor to poor, although that number was much higher in South Dakota (61 percent very poor to poor) and Nebraska (49 percent).

Looking ahead, Rippey said, “Over the next week, a fairly benign weather pattern can be expected across much of the U.S. Cool weather may limit further winter wheat development in the Great Lakes region and parts of the East, but late-season warmth will dominate primary production areas of the Plains and Northwest. Despite the Plains’ warmth, soil moisture shortages will continue to hamper wheat emergence and growth across the northwestern half of the High Plains.”

Drought Monitor authors synthesize many drought indicators into a single map that identifies areas of the country that are abnormally dry (D0), in moderate drought (D1), in severe drought (D2), extreme drought (D3) and exceptional drought (D4).

The U.S. Drought Monitor map is jointly produced by the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and about 350 drought observers across the country. It is released each Thursday based on data through the previous Tuesday.

Statistics for the percent area in each category of drought are automatically added to the U.S. Drought Monitor website each week for the entire country and Puerto Rico, for the 48 contiguous states, for each climate region, and for individual states:

The National Climatic Data Center maintains drought data based on the Palmer Drought Severity Index, calculated to the beginning of the historic record. The percent area of the U.S. in moderate to extreme drought since 1895 is online:

U.S. Drought Monitor map and narrative summary:

National Climatic Data Center’s State of the Climate Drought Summary:

Seasonal Drought Outlook:

U.S. Department of Agriculture's Crops in Drought report for Oct. 16, 2012.

U.S. Department of Agriculture’s running tally of farm and food impacts from the Drought of 2012:

-- Kelly Helm Smith, National Drought Mitigation Center