The eastern United States, sweating through its worst drought in nearly 70 years, will find little relief this summer as severe water shortages are forecast to continue through July, government weather experts said last week.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said summer rains in the East will be too-little-too-late for local reservoirs. Ground water and stream flow levels are far below normal in most of the eastern seaboard.
“The overall outlook for the East Coast continues to call for slow improvement, with the likelihood that some water shortages will persist into July,” the NOAA said in its monthly drought outlook.

Cumulative rainfall deficits from October to mid-April range from 9 to 12 inches throughout the area. Some areas, such as Connecticut and southeastern New York have rainfall deficits exceeding 12 inches. Water restrictions are already in place in all or parts of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, Maine and New Hampshire. This could mean empty swimming pools, wilted lawns and trash-filled streets. NOAA said it forecast was only preliminary and the situation in the mid-Atlantic could “rapidly worsen.”

Across the country in forest-abundant regions of California and the Southwest, an abnormally dry winter season has set the stage for a dangerous fire season. The NOAA forecasts an intensifying drought without any significant improvement before August. NOAA said the worst hit regions were from southern California to western New Mexico and northward into parts of Nevada, Utah and Colorado.

“The fire danger in the Southwest is expected to be much above normal due to the low amounts of winter snowpack and precipitation,” the federal agency said.

In the U.S. Midwest, where farmers are beginning to plant this year's crop, NOAA forecast little danger of drought this summer. In fact, the outlook calls for normal to above-normal rainfall from the Texas Panhandle to the Dakotas, which should relieve current dry conditions there.

A return of El Nino, a weather phenomenon blamed for droughts and devastating floods, could bring more precipitation levels to the northwestern and southeastern parts of the country. Forecasters said the United States should be able to feel the effects of El Nino, which means "boy child" in Spanish, by mid-summer.

For more details, or to check out the latest U.S. Drought Assessment report visit:

Reuters, NOAA