In case NJ and NY residents think drought isn’t affecting us

‘Severe’ drought designation expanded in NY and parts of northern NJ



A map showing drought conditions in the Northeast
The U.S. Drought Monitor has expanded its severe drought designation to parts of New York and New Jersey.THE U.S. DROUGHT MONITOR

Severe drought conditions in New York and New Jersey persist this week and have expanded into parts of the South Shore of Long Island, Dutchess and Putnam counties, and northern New Jersey, according to the latest data released Thursday from the federal authorities that track conditions nationwide.

Parts of New York City, including Staten Island and Brooklyn, were first upgraded from moderate to severe drought on August 9th, according to models from the National Drought Mitigation Center, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Severe drought conditions, which were affecting just a tiny corner of New Jersey last week, have now expanded through several counties, including Middlesex, Somerset, and Union, the latest models show.

“Things are expanding and intensifying, if slowly,” said Rich Tinker, a drought specialist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, though he added that midway through August, the risk that these conditions will worsen dramatically is limited. “We are moving forward into a cooler and cooler time of the year. That means less water demand.”

According to James Connolly, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, just .78 inches of rain have fallen in Central Park so far this month— 1.52 inches below the average for the last 30 years. The dearth of rainfall is similar to conditions experienced in the summer of 2016, according to Jessica Spaccio, a climatologist with the Northeast Regional Climate Center.

On Tuesday, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul expanded the state’s drought watch to include most of the state, save for the metropolitan area and northern part of the state around the Adirondacks. She asked New Yorkers in those areas to limit watering their lawns, and urged anyone camping in the backcountry to take care when building fires. Most of the state is currently rated at a high risk for wildfires, according to the Department of Environmental Protection.

Firefighters have already tackled two wildfires this month: one in Harriman State Park and one in Rockland County, according to the state.

Earlier this month, officials in New Jersey declared a drought watch for the entire state. Some towns and counties have gone further, asking residents to voluntarily reduce their water consumption and setting up alternate days on which people can water their lawns.

New York City’s parks department recommended watering street trees, especially saplings that need more water to thrive.

More extreme drought conditions have expanded to additional parts of Massachusetts and Rhode Island, according to the latest data.

Gwynne Hogan is a general assignment reporter who’s worked at WNYC and Gothamist since 2017. Before joining WNYC, she did stints at the New York Post and the late DNAinfo New York and studied at the CUNY Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, graduating with the class of 2014. She won a Gracie award for her coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic and a Society of Professional Journalists award for her reporting on one Rockaway school’s efforts to avoid suspending students. Follow her on Twitter.

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