Will Rain Forecast For Next Week Be Enough To Ease Dry Conditions?

The region is in the midst of an 18-day dry spell, which has affected some local summer crops and delayed planting of some fall pumpkin crops.


It’s technically not summer yet, but the Pittsburgh region is experiencing higher temperatures and extremely dry conditions that are not typical for late spring.

The conditions have impacted local crops, including strawberries and pumpkin planting for fall. Two local farms have been forced to cancel their popular summer strawberry festivals due to low yield.

Will the upcoming forecasted rain be enough to make up for the deficit we’ve accrued in this 18-day dry spell?

Meteorologist Colton Milcarek with the National Weather Service in Moon says we will need more measurable rainfalls to make up the nearly 5-inch deficit we are experiencing.

“At this time last year, our spring precipitation was at 11.57 inches and right now, between March and May, we have recorded 6.84 inches of rain,” he adds. “We typically average between 10 and 11 inches of rain in the spring season.”

The National Integrated Drought Information System placed much of the state, including the Pittsburgh region, into a D1 or moderate drought category Thursday morning.

Milcarek says when an area is considered to be in a moderate drought, the lack of precipitation has impacted streams, reservoirs and wells, as well as caused damage to some crops and pastures.

“With a moderate drought, we encourage voluntary water restrictions like keeping showers shorter and turning the sink off when brushing your teeth,” he advises. “Little things like that can help.”

If dry conditions continue to persist, the area could be bumped to a D2 or severe drought status. In this case, water shortages will become fairly common and water restrictions will be mandatory.

Allegheny County was last in a moderate drought from October to November 2020, and this is the least spring precipitation we’ve received since 2012, Milcarek says. 

The longest streak without measurable precipitation in Pittsburgh was 26 days in 1874.

If the dryness wasn’t enough, the state has also been under Code Red or Code Orange air quality alerts through the state Department of Environmental Protection the last several days from smoke blowing into the area from Canadian wildfires.

This means air pollution concentrations are unhealthy and could cause mild to moderate health effects, such as difficulty breathing, particularly for those who suffer from asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart disease and children whose lungs are still developing. 

Is there an end in sight for the dry conditions?

Milcarek says the National Weather Service is forecasting some rainfall this Sunday and into next week. However, it is still too early to tell if the amounts will be measurable.

“There may be some relief coming next week, but it will take more than a few showers to bring up the deficit we’ve built up over the past few months,” he adds.

The dry spell has impacted two popular summer staples. Soergel Orchards in Wexford and Trax Farms in Finleyville were both forced to cancel their strawberry festivals because of a low crop yield.

Eric Voll, a sixth-generation family member at Soergel Orchards, says the roller coaster weather patterns the area received over the winter and into the spring took its toll on their crops, particularly the strawberries.

“Strawberries typically thrive in seasonal temperatures,” he says. “But, we experienced a minus 20-degree temperature in December, followed by a really wet early spring and extended cold temperatures that rolled into very hot temperatures.”

Since no measurable rainfall has been recorded for nearly 20 days, Voll says the berries did not grow and the quantity they usually produce was less than ideal. So, they decided to cancel the festival for the first time in at least 30 years.

“People are used to picking their own strawberries at the festival, and we felt since we couldn’t present the main attraction, it was best to cancel. It would be like going to a Pirates game and them not playing the game,” he adds.

Voll explains the staff at Soergel’s rotates the fields, but they don’t have regular access to irrigation for the 6 acres of strawberry plants.

“We count on Mother Nature to bring the rain and that’s out of our control. Moving forward, we are working to figure out a way to get water to the strawberries in an efficient and effective manner so that we can execute a preemptive strike because it would be naive to think that this won’t happen again,” he says.

The dry spell has impacted other crops at Soergel’s, including pumpkin planting.

“We have delayed putting the pumpkins in the ground because they would not germinate due to a lack of moisture in the soil,” he notes. “As a family business, we have been very blessed over the years. This is just a little bump in the road. We will all get through this and hope to have more positive experiences in the future.”

Categories: The 412