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RI WEATHER

Drought eases in Rhode Island, but is not yet over

Remnants of Hurricane Ian have provided a little relief, though drought conditions continue to affect 257,001 people statewide

US Drought Monitor Rhode Island Drought Map for Oct. 4, 2022.US Drought Monitor

A promising report by the US Drought Monitor shows that dry conditions across the Ocean State are improving after several weeks of steady rainfall.

As of Tuesday, moderate drought conditions had tumbled some 36 percent from last week when more than 70 percent of the state was in a moderate drought. This week, only about 35 percent of the state is experiencing moderate drought, while 65 percent of the state is rated abnormally dry but is trending toward normal. The drought continues to affect 257,001 people statewide.

This summer, dry conditions have led to increased crop irrigation and loss of crops, and changes in the taste of water in Portsmouth, R.I., the Newport Daily News reports.

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WBUR-FM reports that parched trees are hastening the return to autumn as leaves in New England are changing earlier. The dry weather has also affected the size of apples and could impact the Christmas tree harvest this winter.

A report submitted by citizen scientist Philip Schuck on Aug. 4 shows a stream near Wandsworth Street in Narragansett, Rhode Island, that he said had never been dry before. He said in the report that the property is usually too wet to mow completely but “is now very dry.”

“Found a raccoon under a birdbath he had tipped over onto himself,” stated Schuck, who noted it was the worst condition he has seen in his 20-plus years of experience in the area. “He had died under it. Very sad result of him looking for water.”

A report submitted by another citizen on Aug. 18 said that Lower Sprague Reservoir in Smithfield, Rhode Island, was “completely dry.” The report said it was the driest conditions since 2020 in the area.

Currently, all five Rhode Island counties have US Department of Agriculture disaster designations, and the state experienced the 35th driest August and its 18th driest year-to-date over the past 128 years.

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“The drought of 2020-2022 really stands out for its longevity,” says Brad Rippey of the USDA Office of the Chief Economist. It’s been a record 106 consecutive weeks — over two years — with more than 40 percent of the US in drought, according to the Drought Center.

The National Integrated Drought Information System reports that remnants of Hurricane Ian brought several days of rainfall to southern New England that eased severe drought conditions in multiple locations.

“For example, severe drought was erased from portions of southwestern Connecticut, New York City, and central New Jersey, while moderate drought eased on the Delmarva Peninsula and contracted in southern New Jersey,” the National Integrated Drought Information System said. “However, much of Massachusetts and northern New England missed out, keeping conditions mostly unchanged in those areas. The US Drought Monitor released on October 6 showed less than 1% of the Northeast in extreme drought, 3% in severe drought, 7% in moderate drought, and 16% as abnormally dry compared to less than 1%, 4%, 9%, and 18%, respectively, last week.”

Rhode Island has had 7.72 inches of rain since Sept. 1, two inches more than normal for this time of year.




Carlos Muñoz can be reached at carlos.munoz@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @ReadCarlos and on Instagram @Carlosbrknews.