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Posted at 11:00 AM ET, 05/ 8/2009

Drought Down & Out; Pollen Poised to Return

By Dan Stillman

* Full Forecast: Drier Times Ahead | Weather & Swine Flu *

Joggers run yesterday morning past floodwalls that were raised along the Potomac River in Georgetown. When not threatened, the walls are lowered down to the walkway level out of sight. (Gerald Martineau/Washington Post). Click here for larger size.

The drought is done, and thankfully Mother Nature has been gentle, yet methodical, about erasing our precipitation deficit.

Just six weeks ago the D.C. area had entered a moderate drought, as classified by the U.S. Drought Monitor. A dry February -- the driest on record at Reagan National Airport -- had helped push precipitation totals since Jan. 1 to nearly 5 inches below normal. At that time, although rain was in the short-term forecast, we cautioned that "to really get ourselves out from the growing grip of drought we'll need rainfall over the next few months that is more consistent than that of the past several."

Mission accomplished, though not without a potential downside.

Keep reading for some of the drought-busting stats, and yet still a reason to complain (because we can't not complain about the weather, right?)...

Observed precipitation for the 30 days ending at 8 a.m. this morning. The ample rainfall has erased drought concerns in the area for the time being. Courtesy National Weather Service.

Fortunately, this drought has not ended with a too-much-too-soon deluge in the way that some have ended in the past, but rather with frequent rains spread out over time. Since March 26, National Airport has recorded at least a trace of rain on 26 of 43 days. Yesterday was the ninth consecutive day the area has seen at least a trace of rain -- often a good bit more. Precipitation totals since our rain streak began on April 29 are...

  • National Airport: 3.33"
  • Dulles Airport: 3.32"
  • BWI Airport: 3.97"

(Note: At BWI, the rain streak was interrupted for a day on April 30, when the airport did not record any precipitation.)

All three airports are now within 1 inch of normal for the year. And so, for the first time since early February, the metro area is neither in drought nor even abnormally dry, according to this week's Drought Monitor map, which doesn't even include the impacts of rainfall since Tuesday morning. The news is good for farmers, good for area water supplies, good for the local economy, and good for all those flowers you planted earlier this spring.

The bad news? (besides the inconvenience caused by recently relentless rains)... All this rain, which has knocked the pollen count down from its staggering late-April levels, has trees and flowers poised to pollinate once again as drier and sunnier weather moves in for Mother's Day and beyond.

By Dan Stillman  | May 8, 2009; 11:00 AM ET
Categories:  Droughts, Local Climate  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Forecast: Same Ol' Showers; Drier by Mom's Day
Next: PM Update: Sun Returns; Storms Tonight


I recall that this fall, there was a drastic acorn shortage, and they blamed it on a ton of rain in May, washing the pollen off of the trees at a critical time for acorn formation. Any chance that all this rain could cause a repeat?
Joe in SS

Posted by: vtavgjoe | May 8, 2009 11:21 AM | Report abuse

Did anybody see what looks like a tropical system heading towards us from the west. It has an eye like feature with it! My son has a baseball game at 9am which does not look like it will be played.

Posted by: bgor | May 8, 2009 1:45 PM | Report abuse


That complex of showers and storms will likely impact us late tonight. It's not out of the question it will be outta here by 9 a.m. tomorrow...but it's a close call.

Posted by: Jason-CapitalWeatherGang | May 8, 2009 2:25 PM | Report abuse

Those areas, particularly in Virginia and West Virginia, that are under 75% (and to a limited extent, 50%) in the longer term won't be too happy unless the wetness continues into the summer.

Posted by: CapitalClimate | May 8, 2009 2:49 PM | Report abuse

What is WITH those staggeringly high pollen counts, anyway? Is it a weather/climate-change thing, or is DC just a bad area for pollen?

Posted by: Juan-John | May 8, 2009 2:56 PM | Report abuse

To Joe in SS:

My wife had the same question regarding oak pollination. In Vienna, we noticed perhaps two days of pollen turning our cars green before the rains came and washed the catkins off the oak trees. (The pollen on those two days may even have been from other trees -- we didn't check the actual day that the oak catkins started releasing.) Poor squirrels!

Posted by: natellad | May 8, 2009 3:21 PM | Report abuse

@ bgor, Cf. my post this morning about the cirrus radiatus converging on the SW this morning, which looked quite a bit like what we see later in the year when tropical systems are approaching. We also had some interesting pileus/lenticularis mixing in with the cumulus earlier this afternoon, indicative of humidity in the air.

Looks as though things are OK for the Elks Lodge dance, though my pocketbook will likely take a hit. That MCS in Kentucky could hit us before midnight, though. It's racing along quickly. How much of this system will hold together in WV is the question here.

I think the oaks had a good opportunity to pollinate and set acorns during that hot weekend just before we started getting all the rain.

Posted by: Bombo47jea | May 8, 2009 5:15 PM | Report abuse

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