Government and private weather forecasters agree that Berkshire County has been under some sort of dome or canopy this summer, with severe thunderstorms and sustained rainfalls diverted elsewhere.
Once again, the prospect of a "significant rainfall event," in weather-forecaster lingo, ap peared to be receding late Thursday, based on new guidance from the National Weather Service in Albany, N.Y.
The weekly U.S.government Drought Monitor issued Thursday, based on data up to Tuesday morning, still placed western and central Massa chusetts as well as much of upstate New York, in the official "moderate drought" category. Much of the Midwest, South, Plains and Texas are in much more severe straits.
Many area residents are concerned about parched lawns, especially in Pittsfield, Dalton, Hinsdale and Lenox, where the use of automatic sprinklers has been restricted or banned. Brooks and streams continue to flow in a trickle, river levels are far below average, and DPW superintendents in some communities remain concerned about lack of replenishment for reservoirs.
But as National Weather Service meteorologist Luigi Meccariello put it: "Every little amount helps." He said earlier forecasts of a one- to two-inch soaking rainfall have been scaled back, though isolated areas hit by possibly intense thunderstorms from Friday morning until early Saturday could still see those amounts.
There's a two-in-three chance of rain over the Berkshires, said Meccariello, adding that the pattern of storms missing the county "has been the theme so far this summer."
According to the Northeast Regional Climate Center at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., the moderate drought is linked to the seventh warmest July in the region since 1895 and the warmest January through July on record. Nationally, July was the hottest month on record.
"Droughts tend to feed and sustain heat waves," according to meteorologist Brett Anderson, of AccuWeather.com. The national dry spell, affecting close to two-thirds of the U.S., is the most widespread since 1956. For many locations, it's the worst drought since the Dust Bowl of the 1930s.