Thursday, February 2, 2023

Too much rain so far this year? Think again

While 2018 has seemed like it may have been a year with an extreme amount of precipitation, such a perception is only partially correct.

With less than two months remaining in the year, total precipitation amounts to just under 49 inches – recorded through Nov. 7 by the National Weather Service at its official collection site at the Norfolk International Airport.

That’s a little above average, which in Hampton Roads is 46 inches annually, but it’s certainly not extreme.

So while the year has been wet, it hasn’t been excessively so region-wide, and is well under the 68.86 inches the region received in 2016, which is the third wettest year on record.

Nevertheless, many locations in the region saw heavy rainfall for long periods, leading to roads and neighborhoods frequently flooded, or very nearly so.

Eswar Iyer, a meteorologist with the NWS in Wakefield, said precipitation in the area can be impacted in a couple of ways: Rain systems can enter the area via the traditional west-to-east weather patterns, and also by tropical systems that come up from the south.

“A few storms earlier in the year stalled over the Mid-Atlantic,” he said.

Historically, he said, it’s more common for weather to move through the region fairly quickly. Recently though the systems have moved much more slowly — even stalling over or nearly over Hampton Roads — allowing them to drop more rain than they typically would.

The flooding some areas of Hampton Roads have seen – Virginia Beach comes to mind – is often because of a combination of things: rainfall, wind, and sea level rise, which also impacts inland waterways.

For 2017, Iyer said, precipitation was also a few inches above average, at 49.16 inches.

“A lot of these systems have settled over the area instead of passing through,” he said.

The wettest year on record is 1889, when more than 70 inches of precipitation fell on the area.

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