Published: 2007-12-26 11:57:00
Updated: 2007-12-27 12:53:55
Posted December 26, 2007 11:57 a.m. EST
Updated December 27, 2007 12:53 p.m. EST
Raleigh, N.C. — Wednesday's rain proved to be a late Christmas present for much of the Triangle and more is on the way.
Another round of rain is expected on Friday and perhaps another soaking at the end of this weekend, WRAL meteorologist Mike Maze said.
Almost an inch of rain was recorded at Raleigh-Durham International Airport Wednesday, but parts of Granville County received an estimated 3 inches, while about 2 inches fell in parts of Orange County.
The Falls Lake and Jordan Lake watersheds will be the main beneficiaries of the rainfall pattern, Maze and local officials said, as streams in the northern and western portions of the Triangle feed the water into the two major reservoirs, as well as Lake Michie and the Little River Reservoir in Durham.
"It's got to be north of (Interstate) 540 and west of the airport to have any benefit for the lake," Raleigh Public Utilities Director Dale Crisp said of Falls Lake.
The rain left the Triangle 8.78 below normal for the year, down from 9.58 inches on Tuesday. But a "conveyor belt of moisture" could dent the rainfall deficit even more in the coming days, Maze said.
Winds from the southwest are expected to bring three more storm systems across North Carolina by Sunday. The first that comes through Thursday is expected to fall apart, but systems that come through late Friday and on Sunday should bring increasing amounts of rain, Maze said.
"This is the best pattern we've seen in a while," WRAL Meteorologist Elizabeth Gardner said. "Four systems over five days is really a treat for us."
The region continues to experience exceptional drought conditions, the worst of five drought categories monitored by the state Drought Management Advisory Council. Seventy-eight of the state's 100 counties fall into the "exceptional" category, according to the council's latest report, while nine are experiencing extreme drought conditions and 13 are in a severe drought.
Crisp said Raleigh likely would implement tougher water restrictions after New Year's Day.
"Because of the (Wednesday) rain event, we may have gained a couple of days," he said.
Raleigh has about 94 days of drinking water in Falls Lake, and city officials have said they plan to enact Stage 2 restrictions – outdoor watering and pressure-washing would be banned and car washes that don't recycle water would be closed – once the supply drops to 90 days.
Crisp said the city is negotiating with state officials to access some of the sediment water in Falls Lake to use after the regular drinking water supply runs out.
"There's a lot of water in the (sediment) pool and not sediment that could be used during this drought period even for water supply and water quality purposes," he said. "Preliminary testing shows it's fairly good quality. It certainly can be treated and meet our safe drinking water requirements."
The sunshine and warmth should return by mid-afternoon Thursday with temperatures reaching into the 50s. Maze said the prevailing winds would shift to the northwest by next Tuesday, bringing colder, drier air across North Carolina.
Ed Buchan, a water conservation specialist with the Public Utilities Department, said more patterns like the "conveyor belt of moisture" are needed for the state to break the drought.
"This is not a quick fix, most likely," Buchan said.