It wasn’t too many months ago that we were talking about needing to get out of drought.
There won’t be any talk like that for quite a long while.
A soaking atmospheric pattern has developed that promises to continue bringing occasional wet storm systems into the foreseeable future.
We are in the middle of a wet week now after a waterlogged latter half of last week.
By the end of Monday, Roanoke had surpassed its normal rainfall for the entire month of February after just 10 days with 2.95 inches — 2.89 is considered normal for the whole month. And then it rained some more Tuesday.
More than 21/2 inches fell Wednesday to Friday last week, including 1.74 inches on Thursday. And those totals were considerably lighter than some that occurred farther to the south and southwest.
Evacuations and swift-water rescues were necessary in some of the counties west of Interstate 77, where a state of emergency was declared, and several mudslides were reported along the southern edge of the state from Lee County at the southwest tip to the Danville area in Southside.
And there’s more of this on the way, with another surge of heavier rain on Wednesday and Thursday — though likely not as heavy as last week — and likely another wet system early next week, with periodic storms beyond that, as well.
An El Nino-like pattern has shown up this February, with a steady flow of the southern branch of the jet stream sweeping storm systems across the country every few days.
El Nino refers to the irregularly recurring warming of central Pacific waters, which were generally considered in a neutral state earlier in the winter but have warmed to a level now that will be considered a weak El Nino if it lasts three more months. That often promotes a flow of subtropical moisture out of the Pacific across the southern half of the U.S.
The west-to-east flow across the nation is enhanced by the Arctic Oscillation, which reached a record positive level earlier this week. Strong low pressure aloft over the North Pole is trapping the Arctic air up there, not allowing much deep cold to punch southward, as well as intensifying the west-to-east flow with few north-south dips across North America.
This, in a nutshell, is why we’re having a cool-to-mild but wet weather pattern with only short cold shots in between the wet periods.
The storm track is not suppressed southward far enough to put substantial chances of widespread snow and ice into the equation.
A fairly sharp but fleeting punch of cold air will arrive for Friday, when some spots may drop into the teens and highs won’t get above 40 in many places. But it will be swept out over the weekend ahead of the next wet storm system.
The good news about having this kind of rain in February is the refilling of water tables and reservoirs that will likely keep them at acceptable levels even if drought were to develop in spring and summer ahead. Droughts that threaten water supplies usually start or continue through a winter, when runoff is at its highest.
The bad news is that we are saturating the soil and raising stream levels so that a particularly heavy bout of rainfall could even more easily induce flooding the next time around.
Most people seem to either want snow or sunny, warm days portending spring in February.
But this one isn’t providing either one, just rainy periods with shot cold shots in between. Not a pleasing February for almost anyone, but at least drought isn’t developing.