SOME EAST COAST STATES HAVE DRIEST MARCH EVER, SEVERE DROUGHT CONTINUES IN SOUTHWEST, SOUTHERN PLAINS, RECORD RAINFALL IN HAWAII
April 17, 2006 — It was the driest March on record for five East Coast states and the wettest month in parts of the Hawaiian Islands, according to scientists at the NOAA National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C. March 2006 also was warmer than usual, with an average temperature of 44.0 degrees F, or 1.5 degrees above the 1895-2005 statistical mean. (Click NOAA image for larger view of winter March 2006 statewide temperature rankings. Please credit “NOAA.”)
Last month was the driest March on record for five eastern states—New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and Florida. Twelve other East Coast states were much drier than average. Many East Coast locations had their driest March on record, such as New York's Central Park (0.80 in.), Wilmington, Del., (0.29 in.), Washington National Airport, (0.05 in.), Richmond, Va., (0.20 in.), and Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., (0.03 in.). At the end of March, moderate drought was present across large parts of the mid-Atlantic (North Carolina, Virginia, Delaware) according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
Moderate-to-extreme drought (as defined by a widely-used measure of drought—the Palmer Drought Index) affected about 26 percent of the contiguous U.S. This represents a slight increase over the February 2006 extent, largely due to the onset of moderate drought across parts of the Tennessee Valley, southern Appalachians and mid-Atlantic. (Click NOAA image for larger view of winter March 2006 statewide precipitation rankings. Please credit “NOAA.”)
However, a large storm system brought beneficial rain and snow to parts of the Plains and West and flooding rainfall to Texas on the last weekend of astronomical winter (March 18-20), when more than 7 inches of rain fell in the Dallas area. The rain and snow helped ease short-term drought through the southern and central Plains and Southwest, but severe-to-extreme drought remained entrenched across much of the region. Other areas in the West received abundant rain and snow during March with Utah much wetter than average for the month. Several cities in northern California had a record number of days with rain for March, including 25 days for San Francisco and 23 days for Redding.
The Hawaiian Islands were much wetter than normal, with a record rainfall total on Mt. Waialeale (Kauai) of 93.7 inches. This was nearly 60 inches above normal and broke the April 1971 record of 90.07 inches. Six weeks of excessive rainfall over the state resulted from a persistent upper level wind and pressure pattern that steered storm systems across the islands.
Several significant snow storms affected the nation last month, with a particularly widespread snow event affecting much of the Plains on March19 and 20. During the event, a new 48-hour snowfall record was established at Grand Island, Neb., with more than 20 inches falling, breaking the previous record by more than 5 inches. At least 10 inches of snow fell across a broad area of the plains from Colorado and Kansas north to the Dakotas.
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