Maine needs nearly 6 inches of rain in the next month to end its drought

By Julia Bayly, Bangor Daily News Staff

About half a foot of rain over the next month is needed to relieve the moderate drought conditions. 

And as Maine is in the middle of another hot weekend, it does not look like that relief is coming any time soon.

“Looking ahead we have a warm air mass moving into next week,” said Matt Strauser, meteorologist at the National Weather Services office in Caribou. “There is no widespread rain expected, just some hit and miss showers on Tuesday but nothing that will bust the drought.”

More than 81 percent of the state’s population is currently experiencing the effects of a third summer in a row of drought conditions, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Part of the state hit the hardest by the conditions is along the coast, home to many of the state’s blueberry farms. Now is the time when the growing berries need rain to fully mature. Without it, farmers could face a repeat of the 2020 season when drought wiped out crops along the coast. 

As dry as things currently are, it’s not as bad as last summer when the state needed 15 inches of soaking rain over three months to end the dry conditions. At this time last year, more than eight percent of Maine was experiencing a severe drought, compared with none this year.

Only Aroostook County is drought-free, according to NOAA, after receiving about a half inch more rain than is normal for June. A tiny southwest corner of Aroostook—  less than a quarter of 1 percent — is experiencing abnormally dry conditions.

Elsewhere, conditions range from abnormally dry to a moderate drought in Piscataquis, Franklin, Oxford, Kennebec, Somerset, Penobscot and Hancock counties. The rest of the state is in a moderate drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

The central area of the state — from western Maine to the coast — has seen an inch and a half less rain in June than average. Southern Maine also had a dryer than average June with about an inch less rain than average.

Strausser said the northeast part of the state is seeing more rain in general this summer. Farther south and even into New Hampshire, however, precipitation is well below last levels last year at this time.

As badly as the state needs up to a foot of rain, Stausser said getting it all at once or even in two or three storms is not the best case.

Sudden storms that dump inches of rain over an area in a short period of time can cause flash flooding, washouts and other damage. In May, a severe rainstorm washed out a large section of Route 1 between Van Buren and Caribou. It took more than a month to complete repairs on that road.

“The best case is to have rain spread over multiple events with a nice half inch over time,” Strausser said. “Not getting 3 or 4 inches all at once.”

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