You may have read that more of the U.S. is in moderate or worse drought than any year since 1956. As of last week’s Drought Monitor (map linked here), only a patch of central Virginia near Richmond is in that category, but most of the state including all of western Virginia is in the “abnormally dry” pre-drought stage. There is little good news on the horizon for the worst-affected areas of the central U.S., but perhaps beyond the horizon, an El Nino possibly developing over the next 3 months might lead to more rainy storms riding in on the subtropical branch of the jet stream out of the Pacific as we move toward the cooler months.
Speaking of rain on dry ground, the Hydrometeorological Prediction Center rainfall projection map is showing 1.5 inch or more throughout our region over the next 5 days, ending Sunday. This situation is somewhat similar to what happened last week when a cold front slowly moved south against strong high pressure in the Southeast. The timing of the front and where it slows down is always difficult for forecast models to latch onto, but it does appear at this point as if the front may slow down or even stall farther north than last week’s front did. So for that reason, I have slightly higher expectations of rainfall in our region than I did last week, when most of it hung around the Virginia-North Carolina border and farther south — though it will still likely be far more patchy with the pattern of shower/storm development than the smoothed our areas shown on this map. Rather than 1.5 inch areawide, it will probably be more like a few spots of 3 inches, widespread 1/2 inch and some areas getting little.
Storm chances will gradually pick up through the remainder of the week as the front gets closer. Highs Wednesday will be similar to today’s with widespread upper 80s to mid 90s (Blacksburg officially 89 on Tuesday, Roanoke 95), gradually pulling back to upper 70s-low 80s by the weekend. It will remain humid through the period, with lows near or above the 60s norms.