By Clint Thompson
Tropical Depression Cristobal’s expected movement into the Gulf of Mexico should bring much-needed rainfall to North Florida and South Alabama. Pam Knox, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Agricultural Climatologist, says rains over the next week should alleviate some of those drought conditions.
“The whole Florida Panhandle and then stretching west into the Mobile (Ala.) area has been quite dry. So, they were missed by a lot of the storms that hit north Georgia and north Alabama. They’ve been fairly dry,” Knox said. “They’ve gotten a little bit more relief lately but it’s still dry there. I’ve seen some reports of fires in the area and continuing problems with the dry conditions.
“The latest seven-day forecast for rainfall, which includes the rainfall that’s coming from Cristobal, looks like the southern part of Georgia and Alabama and the whole panhandle of Florida and really all of north Florida is going to be affected by the rain from this.”
According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, all of north Florida is either in abnormally dry, moderately dry or severe dry conditions. It’s also the case for southwest parts of Alabama.
Cristobal is already the third named storm of the season. Knox said the average date for the first sea storm is Aug. 13 so it’s already a real active storm season. But she cautions weather enthusiasts that just because it’s active now doesn’t mean it will stay that way over the course of summer and into fall.
“All of the ingredients are there for it to be an active season. We’re in neutral conditions and looks like we’re going to go into a La Nina. That definitely correlates with an active season in the Atlantic. 2019 was active but we only had a couple of storms that affected the Southeast. Even though it’s active, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to be big impact for the Southeast. It could,” Knox said.
While tropical storms and hurricanes can be intimidating with their heavy rains and fierce winds, Knox reassures that they are necessary to replenish dry soils.
“Tropical storms have an important role to play in the Georgia climate because maybe up to 30% of our summer rain comes from these tropical systems. If we don’t get tropical storms, we could easily go into a drought,” said Knox, who described how Cristobal works. “If you think about how a tropical storm spins, it’s counter-clockwise. It’s going to move west of us most likely. That means we’re going to be in strong flow of air coming up from the south. It’s very juicy air. It’s going to really help set off a lot of rain.
“Some of the forecasts for rain in the Florida Panhandle, we’re looking at 5 to 7 inches or more of rain over the next week. A lot of that’s going to come right ahead of Tropical Storm Cristobal.”
Knox said north Alabama and north Georgia aren’t expected to receive as much rain.