Boston to Philly: Needed Northeast Rain May Come at a Cost

May 10, 2012; 2:40 AM ET
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The 2012 Summer Forecast calls for beneficial rain for the Northeast. However, the rain may come at the cost of active severe weather and a possible tropical system hit.

Many communities in the Northeast have endured a dry March and April, and for some it has been dry since the beginning of the winter. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, areas from Boston to New York City and Philadelphia are being gripped by moderate to severe drought conditions.

Flames jump the roadway in Suffolk County, N.Y., as a roaring brush fire threatens homes and commercial buildings on Long Island, Monday, April 9, 2012. (AP Photo/Robert Garofalo)

The dry conditions have increased the wildfire risk across portions of the Northeast this spring. Warmth and gusty winds further contributed to the threat for wildfires to burn across New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania back in late March and into April.

Until beneficial rainfall returns to the Northeast, there will be an elevated fire risk.

Rainfall Deficits in the Northeast

Rainfall Deficit (in.)
Since Jan. 1, 2012
% of Normal Rain
Since Jan. 1, 2012
Boston, Mass.
Hartford, Conn.
New York City, N.Y.
Philadelphia, Pa.
Atlantic City, N.J.
Wilmington, Del.
Baltimore, Md.
The percentage of normal rainfall received is much lower for some of these cities from March to present than from the beginning of 2012. For example, Philadelphia has only received 48 percent of the normal rainfall since March.

Paul Pastelok, leader of the AccuWeather long-range forecasting team, has forecast above-normal rain for much of the Northeast this summer. The rain may be enough to put a dent in or reverse the drought.

"Even if we get near-normal rainfall during June and July, then above-normal August rain, that would cause a significant dent in the drought," Pastelok said.

For the mid-Atlantic, the rain may come with the risk of active severe weather. Portions of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia are included in the zone expected to get rounds of severe weather this summer.

Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Atlantic City and Baltimore may be in the path of volatile storms at times.

While any rainfall is beneficial for drought-stricken areas, threats such as damaging wind gusts, hail and isolated tornadoes could have an impact as well, especially earlier in the season. There may be a transition to heavy rain events later in the season.

The thunderstorms will fire along the northern rim of heat, dominating over the Plains and South. This type of storm setup is often referred to as the "ring of fire" by meteorologists.

AccuWeather 2012 Summer Forecast
Atlantic Hurricane Forecast: Storms Close to Coast
Southeast Summer Warmth, Some Rain Relief

The nature of the thunderstorms will be hit-or-miss, so some cities and towns could receive beneficial rainfall while others remain dry.

Meanwhile, the East Coast will also be vulnerable to a tropical system hit during the 2012 Atlantic Hurricane Season, especially by late in the summer or in early in the fall. The Long-Range Forecasting Team believes this is a possibility due to the fact that the steering currents in the tropics may be directed toward the East Coast at times.

By August, the Atlantic ridge is generally strong, and if it is positioned over the central Atlantic while a trough of low pressure is expected to dominate across the Great Lakes and Appalachians, then the East Coast would be open for a direct hit from the tropics.

Hurricane Irene shortly after making landfall in Cape Lookout, N.C., on Aug. 27, 2011. Image from NASA/NOAA.

"Even if a tropical system hits the Carolinas, there is a possibility that rain from the system could reach into Northeast. You can get more than 5.00 inches of rain from one system, which equals nearly two months worth of rain," Pastelok added.


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