Weather Summary: Highly beneficial rainfall brought additional drought relief to the south-central United States and began to chip away at short-term precipitation deficits in the mid-Atlantic and Northeastern States. Parts of the Southeast also experienced drought relief, but little rain fell in a core drought area centered on central and southern Georgia and northern Florida. In the Midwest, a dry week followed early-May rainfall. Dry conditions also prevailed across much of the West.
The East: Much-needed rain put a significant dent in short-term dryness (D0) and moderate to severe drought (D1 and D2) across the mid-Atlantic and Northeastern States. In fact, rain eradicated nearly all of the D2 in the northern Atlantic coastal plain. Farther south, rain provided drought relief in many areas, especially from parts of Alabama into northern Georgia and the Carolinas. Some of the most widespread heavy rain affected North Carolina, where totals of at least 4 to 6 inches were common across the central one-third of the state. Meanwhile, only light showers dotted the core area of extreme to exceptional drought (D3 to D4) across the lower Southeast. For the year ending May 15, 2012, Augusta, Georgia, received only 22.44 inches of rain. The previous driest such period on record occurred a year ago, from May 16, 2010 – May 15, 2011, when 29.72 inches fell. At times, early-season heat has aggravated drought conditions in the lower Southeast. For example, recent daily-record highs in Florida included 95°F (on May 11) in Ft. Myers and 94°F (on May 12) in Sarasota-Bradenton.
The Mid-South: “Flash drought” conditions began to develop in an area centered on the lower Ohio Valley and the northernmost portion of the Mississippi Delta. The term “flash drought” refers to acute short-term dryness, often aggravated by above-normal temperatures. A decline in crop conditions has been noted across the Mid-South, with 10% of the Arkansas rice crop rated in very poor to poor condition by May 13, according to USDA. Some of the most significant drought was noted across western Kentucky, where severe drought (D2) expanded. Drought also began to creep northward into southern Illinois.
The Midwest: Mostly dry weather returned, following a period of beneficial rainfall in late April and early May. There were only minor changes to the depiction of dryness (D0) and moderate drought (D1). A core area of dryness and drought still existed across the upper Midwest, including most of Minnesota and northern Iowa.