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Triangle inching toward driest year ever

Posted October 27, 2009
Updated March 7, 2010

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— The Triangle area is headed for the driest year in recorded history.

"Even to a meteorologist and climatologist, it is kind of a surprise,” National Weather Service meteorologist Phil Badgett said.

The Raleigh-Durham International Airport has seen 26.87 inches of precipitation this year (through Oct. 22, 2009), according to the Raleigh Forecast Office. If RDU receives less than 3.06 inches of rain by the end of December, this year will be the driest since 1887, when record keeping began.

"This year, the rainfall amounts have just been lighter overall,” Badgett said.

An average year of rain is slightly more than 43 inches. In 1933, only 29.93 inches of rain fell. In 1921, 32.09 inches of rain were recorded. The third driest year was 1976, with 33.71 inches of rainfall.

"When you don't hear those kinds of things, you don't think about it until somebody runs the numbers and says, ‘My gosh, this could be one of the 10 driest years in history,’” WRAL Chief Meteorologist Greg Fishel said.

The drought that began Feb. 13, 2007, was the worst in North Carolina's record-keeping history. While some months were dry and hot, others were rainy.

“When you take that whole (2007) year, it actually didn't even get into the Top 10 (driest) list,” Badgett said.

Badgett said the 10th driest year was actually 1968, when 35.60 inches of rain fell.

Despite recent rain, dry conditions remain Despite recent rain, dry conditions remain

Falls Lake, Raleigh's main water source, is down 4.5 feet. But despite low rainfall amounts, Ed Buchan, an environmental coordinator with the city's Public Utilities Department, said he is comfortable with the city’s water supply.

"Our water conservation pool, which is the water Raleigh has access to for drinking water, is in great shape,” he said.

Buchan said water conservation measures implemented during the drought have curbed usage, and water demand is expected to be down around 15 percent this year.

"It seems to be a message that is sticking – and that is good," Buchan said.

However, Badgett warned that drier conditions could eventually lead to a return of drought worries.

"If this dry weather continues all the way through the winter (and) we get into spring, we could set up a situation like we had in 2007," he said.


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  • ++Ajax++ Oct 28, 2009

    Plebty of rain in Johnston county this year.

  • DontAnnoyMe Oct 27, 2009

    What's happening at your house does *not* define drought. Most of the Triangle is in fact in moderate drought, up from abnormally dry just in the last week.


  • foofoogirl Oct 27, 2009

    Comment response for HJRVS

    Our information for the driest year story came from the Raleigh Forecast Office and measured rainfall totals through Oct. 22. The numbers are correct and you are seeing a difference because the time frames are slightly different from the Raleigh Forecast Office totals and those on WRAL.com.

    All the information for the story came from the Raleigh Forecast Office and was used over the WRAL weather graphics for consistency reasons.

    Thank you for watching WRAL News.

  • time4real Oct 27, 2009

    rain is over folks, nothing to see here. another bust of a 90% rain forecast from wral! we got .08" how about that! how's that grass seed doing!

  • lkanzig Oct 27, 2009

    they hiked the water rates because we are using less! and dont you know that it only matters what happens to the triangle and nowhere else in nc! guess they forgot that falls lake river flows towards the ocean, but then i never gave these clowns credit for being smart.

  • 007KnightRider Oct 27, 2009

    So if RDU doesn't get rain, we are considered dry? If areas outside and away from Raleigh get rain then it doesn't count because RDU didn't get any rain. I guess that's what they are saying, lol. I'm going home, too much running around, my brain is tired thinking about this scenario.

  • Professor Oct 27, 2009

    guess the sun is out and it's dry as a bone down the street.

    The sun is shinning on the other side of the clouds.

  • Buddy1 Oct 27, 2009

    If people would work to conserve water on their own then we wouldn't need rate hikes and watering schedules...but that's not going to happen because people are basically greedy.

    BTW, I work 8 miles from RDU and it is not raining where I am.

  • letourkidspay4it Oct 27, 2009

    Ah, the wingnuts are out today! The RDU gauge is not bogus. We've had even less at our gauge near Southpoint, which just happens to be upstream to RDU when precipitation, cellular or stratiform moves from SW to NE -which is VERY common!

    Last check, Jordan Lake was impressively low, though most of this storm is falling in the headwaters northwest of Jordan lake with this storm. I'm sure some talk radio listening fanatic in the sweet spot of this storm to our NW will blame Meeker, Perdue, Clinton, any dem, when their gauge exceeds RDU in this one.

  • HJRVS Oct 27, 2009

    Oh, and one final comment... it's raining cats and dawgs outside my office by 3 miles down I-40 from RDU. I guess the sun is out and it's dry as a bone down the street.

    Get ready for next weeks headline; "Raleigh looks to increase water rates to drive conservation!"