The American West has been enduring a severe drought for more than two decades, with a substantial lack of rainfall and precipitation in general making way for intensifying wildfires, parched riverbeds, and dry aquifers. However, late last week, a storm system made its way into the Pacific Northwest bringing with it much-needed rain for the first time in months. Now, with drought conditions promising to endure throughout the winter, the most recent storm system has provided marginal relief for states like Oregon and Washington to the northwest as well as some of our breadbasket states like Kansas, Oklahoma, and Missouri.
Rainy Storm System Quashes Weeks of Smoke Accumulation
According to CNN, the rain which soaked the Pacific Northwest on Friday helped to clear smoky skies across Seattle “in a matter of hours.” While parts of Oregon have been enduring some of the nation’s worst air quality in recent weeks, Seattle is one of many cities that has nevertheless been combatting significant amounts of overhanging smoke.
The break in dry conditions came after officials issued a warning about poor air quality in Oregon earlier this month. The advisory covered much of western Oregon and southwestern Washington and read, “Smoke levels can change rapidly depending on the weather. Smoke can irritate the eyes and lungs and worsen some medical conditions.”
The storm system which came ashore Friday immediately proved the truth in the above statement as the rain managed to clear out the majority of overhanging, potentially threatening, smoke.
Rain Could Help Raise the Mississippi River’s Record-Low Water Levels
Aside from wildfire smoke, the rain that came ashore Friday has begun making its way east and will, hopefully, help raise the Mississippi River’s record-low water level. According to the outlet, the storm system should soak much of the country east of the Rockies.
While wildfire smoke is a major concern out west, parched rivers and bodies of water populate much of this region. The outlet reports the rain-soaking central areas of the nation is helping to feed river networks that branch into the Mississippi River which is currently seeing some of its lowest water levels in recorded history.
That said, the storm system won’t completely alleviate record drought conditions spanning much of the Mississippi River. However, forecasters believe it nevertheless signals a shift in weather patterns, possibly bringing the potential for further significant amounts of precipitation.
CNN meteorologist Monica Garrett spoke further about what the current storm system means for drought-stricken areas near the Mississippi.
“The forecast shows some potential for training, or repeating rounds of thunderstorms, particularly across eastern Oklahoma, far southeast Kansas, southwest Missouri, and western Arkansas. While this rainfall will be welcome due to drought, some locally high amounts of up to six inches could lead to scattered flash flooding.”
Jeff Graschel, who is a service coordination hydrologist at the Lower Mississippi River Forecast Center, emphasized the severity of the drought will render the coming storm system only marginally helpful.
“We may get some minor temporary rises out of this that may help alleviate a little bit of the conditions that we’re having now,” he said, “but certainly is not going to be something that will break the low water event that we’re having currently.”