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Despite recent rain, WNY remains under drought status

United States Drought Monitor

Although rain finally arrived in late summer and early fall, Western and Central New York remain under drought status, says the United States Drought Monitor. One climatologist says even if Hurricane Matthew takes a path that brings abundant rain to the region, it will have little impact on a drier-than-usual environment this year.

The National Weather Service estimates three and a half inches fell in Buffalo in September. The U.S. Drought Monitor, a collaboration involving the Department of Agriculture, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, lists Erie County as having "severe drought" conditions in its latest update, issued September 29.

Other parts of Western New York, including large sections of Genesee and Wyoming Counties, are classified in that update as having "extreme drought" conditions.

All that the recent rain has done really, says one climatologist, is prevent the drought from getting worse.

"It's still beneficial. Any rain we get, we're thankful for," said Jessica Spaccio with the Northeast Regional Climate Center. "It will help with current conditions. It will help the drought from getting any worse and keep us at a status quo." 

Hurricane Matthew, which made landfall Tuesday morning in Haiti, could bring a large amount of rain into the Northeastern U.S. if it follows a favorable path. But even if it soaks the region, Spaccio says it may have less of an overall impact than what most may think.

"The ground, especially when it's dry, can only hold so much moisture," Spaccio said. "If too much rain falls at once, a lot of it is lost to run-off. It runs off and goes out into the rivers instead of soaking into the ground and helping our soil and ground conditions."

The National Weather Service, meanwhile, is forecasting above-average temperatures for the month of October. The level of precipitation, though, seems to be an even bet according to its latest 30-day outlook.

"Usually, once we get into fall, sometimes conditions do improve. The weather conditions change and sometimes we'll see more rain," Spaccio said. "Another thing we see in the fall is leaf-off. The trees will lose their leaves and that will help because the trees need less moisture out of the ground."

WXXI Rochester contributed to this report.

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