Irene and Drought

Just returned from vacation, we still are doing double-takes at the August rainfall totals, and we are almost equally surprised to see that parts of the region are still in a drought advisory on the current drought map.

The final rainfall totals for August are stunning. Philadelphia's 19.3 inches make it the soggiest month in 138 years of records.

It beat the old record, set in September 1999 - remember Floyd? --by better than half a foot.

The New Jersey statewide total, 16.5 inches for August, was 4-plus inches over the erstwhile champ, October 2005, according to Dave Robinson, the state climatologist.

Those are amazing numbers. So why the drought advisory?

Recall that June and July were quite hot and dry, with precipitation during those two months about 2.5 inches below normal in Philadelphia.

The New Jersey situation wasn't as bad, but on Aug. 5, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection placed most of the commonwealth under a "drought watch."

The DEP had no way of knowing that on just four days -- Saturday and Sunday, and Aug. 14 and 15 -- Philadelphia would be inundated with close to a foot of rain.

The watch has remained as a precaution, says DEP spokeswoman Jamie Legeron, because the state wanted to make sure that the rains wiped out the various drought criteria.

The state drought committee will meet tomorrow to decide whether to lift the watch. Our guess is that it will, at least in eastern Pennsylvania.

Continue Reading