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Tri-Cities suffers driest spring ever

June 19th, 2007 12:00 am by Kevin Castle

Rain collected in the gauge at Tri-Cities Regional Airport on May 16 measured 0.18 inch - maybe just enough to fill a teaspoon.

But that was considered the heaviest rainfall of the 31-day period and was more than enough evidence for National Weather Service meteorologists to proclaim last month the driest May on record.

The NWS in Morristown said the Tri- Cities this year also experienced its driest spring ever.

The NWS report issued last week shows that only six days of recordable rainfall fell in the region in May, leaving precipitation levels almost 4 inches below normal.

That allowed the record of the previous driest spring on the books - in 1939 when 0.93 inch of rain fell - to be topped by this recent dry spell. The drought can be blamed on a stationary high pressure band that has parked itself above the region since early spring, NWS forecaster Howard Waldron said.

"I don't think we are going to see any significant break in this dry weather," Waldron said.

"This is one of those times where, you hate to say it, but I am actually hoping for a tropical storm to come through the area. It will probably take more than one storm of that size to bring us the precipitation we need. I don't think it is coming though.

"This large high pressure center has stayed over top of us, or what we call a Bermuda high. The circulation of a high brings the winds from the Gulf of Mexico and up into Texas. Right now, if those winds were to shift more to the east, we would be getting the flooding rain that Texas has received."

A high percentage of days with above-normal temperatures also contributed to the Tennessee-Virginia region having the driest spring on record, according to the NWS.

The last time the area saw such a drought was 1986, with only 6.23 inches of rain recorded at that time. NWS gauges only received 5.67 inches during the spring months, an all-time low and 6 inches below normal.

"Storms can do some damage, and we wouldn't knowingly wish for something bad to happen to our communities with the weather, but a major storm event with several inches of rain could really help things out right now," said Waldron.

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