Weekly Weather Summary: Back-to-back storms produced heavy rain in much of the Southeast, including drought-affected areas from eastern Texas to the southern Appalachians. Meanwhile, snow blanketed the southern Rockies and adjacent High Plains. Farther north, mild, dry conditions persisted across the northern Plains and upper Midwest. Elsewhere, cool, unusually dry conditions persisted west of the Rockies, except for some beneficial precipitation in Arizona. In California’s Central Valley, dry conditions and low overnight temperatures led to stunted pasture growth, forcing some ranchers to keep their animals at higher elevations or provide supplemental sources of food and water.
Northeast: The snow season has gotten off to a slow start in much of the Northeast. Through December 24, New York locations such as Buffalo (3.0 inches) and Rochester (2.2 inches) experienced record-low season-to-date totals. Previous records had been set with respective totals of 3.1 inches (in 1998) in Buffalo and 2.6 inches (in 1939) in Rochester. Precipitation moved into the Northeast on December 26-27, but higher amounts again bypassed the pockets of abnormal dryness (D0) in northern portions of New York and New England.
Southeast: Substantial rain fell in most drought-affected areas west of a line from the western Carolinas into western Florida, resulting in widespread one-category reductions in drought intensity. From December 20-26, Pensacola, Florida, received 7.30 inches of rain. Farther west, December 20-26 totals topped 4 inches in a multitude of locations across Louisiana (e.g. Alexandria, Lake Charles), Mississippi (e.g. Jackson, Meridian, Natchez), and neighboring states. However, significant rain bypassed a few areas, including the central Gulf Coast and southern Atlantic regions. In particular, abnormal dryness (D0) continued to gradually expand across Florida’s peninsula on the strength of very dry conditions since November 1. With rainfall totaling only 0.17 inch from December 1-27, Sarasota-Bradenton, Florida, was on a pace to experience its driest December since 1949, when 0.03 inch fell.
Southern and Central Plains: In the wake of the December 19-20 storm, a few additional improvements in the drought depiction were made on the central Plains. A second storm followed the December 19-20 event, resulting in substantial snow (and some drought relief) on the southern High Plains. Pueblo, CO, was affected by both storms, reporting 16.0 inches of snow from December 19-22. Farther south, December 22-24 snowfall reached 10.0 inches in Roswell, NM, and 6.4 inches in Midland, TX. By the morning of December 25, snow depths included 8 inches at Roswell and Clayton, NM, as well as Pueblo, CO. As a result of the widespread snowfall, the core area of exceptional drought (D4) centered over western Texas and southeastern New Mexico diminished in size. As more precipitation has fallen, the focus of the southern Plains’ drought has begun to shift toward groundwater recharge, reservoir replenishment, and long-term recovery from the damage done to rangeland and pastures.