As Hurricane Linda weakens in the Pacific far from land, anyone hoping it’ll leave behind heavy rains that will help reverse years of drought in the U.S. Southwest should think again.
Satellite images showed a long tail of moisture reaching out from Linda’s core and stretching deep into northern Mexico and the southern U.S. The rains from the storm even triggered flash flood warnings across parts of southern California.
Like so many other storms in the last year, though, it won’t be a drought buster.
“It is kind of a novelty but not really any drought relief is expected,” said Brad Rippey, a meteorologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington.
California is currently in its fourth year of drought and more than 99 percent of the state is abnormally dry or worse, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor in Lincoln, Nebraska. While a hurricane throwing rain at a drought would be expected to have some impact, the situation is a little more complicated than that.
Although the heaviest rain could fall at rates of one to two inches (2.5 to 5 centimeters) per hour, it won’t come as a widespread soaking, said Richard Otto, a meteorologist at the U.S. Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland.
“The threat for heavy rain is somewhat limited,” Otto said.
The storm will be enough to possibly cause floods across parts of southern California and then it will run off. “This is all great but it comes and it goes,” Otto said.
It won’t stick around the way several feet of snow in the mountains would, which is how California gets a lot of water in a normal year.
Rippey said the other problem is that the rain will fall in the southern part of the state, where there aren’t many reservoirs. “There really is nothing expected across the northern half of the state,” he added.
Linda peaked as a Category 3 hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale Tuesday, making it a major storm. The power quickly waned and by Wednesday morning it had dropped to a Category 1 storm and was forecast to break up by Friday, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.
The failure to offer much help echoes a similar situation in the Atlantic when tropical storms Danny and Erika weren’t able to help with drought relief. Both storms came up short in lifting parts of Florida and Puerto Rico out of drought as some forecasters had hoped.
In the end, what California is going to need are some heavy snows and those are still weeks away.