Even though 2019 was one of Oneida’s wettest years-to-date on record through May, an abrupt turn to dry weather in late spring has led to developing drought conditions across a large part of the state. But that’s set to end as quickly as it began, it appears.
The U.S. Drought Monitor, a collaboration of several federal and state agencies, listed about one-third of Tennessee — mostly west of Nashville — as being “abnormally dry” in last week’s report. That’s the first step before an official drought is declared.
The culprit is several weeks of hot, dry weather. The last appreciable rainfall in Oneida was measured on May 11-12, when about two inches of rain fell across two days. A quarter of an inch of rain fell on May 17, but the only other rain during the month was a scant three-hundredths of an inch on May 27. The month of May ended with 3.72 inches of rain in Oneida, more than 1.5 inches below normal for the month.
So while 2019 has been abnormally wet overall — more than 33 inches of rain had fallen as of May 31, about 10 inches above normal for the year — the recent dry spell has led to developing drought conditions, with parched lawns and wilting gardens.
That’s likely to change over the next few days, with several inches of rainfall expected.
While the amount of rain that will fall across the northern Cumberland Plateau isn’t exacted to be as much as will be received in areas to the south and west, it is likely that 2.5 to 3 inches of rain falls, according to estimates from NOAA.
Rain chances begin to ratchet up on Wednesday, with a 70 percent chance of rain and thunderstorms. After that, there is at least a 50 percent chance of rain every period through Monday night, before rain chances begin to taper off.
In a briefing Tuesday afternoon, the National Weather Service at Morristown said that a round of severe weather is possible on Wednesday, with chances for flash flooding increasing every day through Tuesday as the sustained heavy rain event plays out each day. The NWS’s Storm Prediction Center has the northern plateau under a “slight risk” for severe weather on Wednesday, meaning there’s a 15 percent chance of severe weather developing within the region. While the NWS said the tornado threat for Wednesday is very low, damaging winds and quarter-sized hail is possible.