One of the CT worst droughts in recent memory is over


After facing one of its driest summers in recent memory, experts declared this week that the drought in Connecticut has at last subsided. 

The intense period of parched, hot weather began last May and lasted into early fall, when a steady stream of rainfall began to slowly replenish rivers, streams and reservoirs, which had fallen to near record-low levels in parts of the state over the summer. 

While parts of Connecticut remained abnormally dry Friday, the latest report from the U.S. Drought Monitor showed that the last areas of formal drought had cleared across New England. Last month, a sliver of western Connecticut remained under drought conditions. 

As a result of favorable weather conditions, as well as reports of reservoirs in Connecticut returning to normal levels, the state’s Interagency Drought Workgroup on Thursday voted to rescind all active alerts —  including those that had been left in place in Hartford, Litchfield, New Haven and Fairfield counties during the group’s last meeting in December.

Precipitation levels across Connecticut have remained mostly above normal for the past few months, and have shown no signs of dropping off in the new year, according to Gary Lessor, the senior meteorologist for the Connecticut Weather Center.

Unlike other, drier areas of the country, Lessor said that droughts in New England are typically alleviated by the region’s cold, wet winters. For that reason, droughts here rarely last more than a few months, and are typically followed by periods of wetter-than-average weather. 

“It’s kind of like a stock market, it goes up and down,” he said. 

Still, Lessor and other experts have warned that periods of intense summer drought are likely to become more common in New England as a result of climate change. 

According to the National Integrated Drought Information System, the Northeast region experienced historic droughts in 2000, 2016 and 2020. The 2016 drought was the most intense of the three and reached its peak in November, when nearly half of Connecticut experienced “extreme” conditions. 

“We have been seeing over these past few years, where climate change, condition changes that have been going on, we’ve been seeing that there’s more drought scenarios going on,” said Martin Heft, the undersecretary of the Office of Policy and Management who chairs the Drought Workgroup. 

The 2022 drought put stress on farmers, particularly in eastern Connecticut, forcing them to run extra irrigation to water-intensive crops like strawberries, peaches and apples. Drought was even blamed for higher prices of Christmas trees this year, due to a reduced supply of available trees after a large number of seedlings died during the 2016 dry spell.

In October, Gov. Ned Lamont announced that farmers in all eight counties of Connecticut would be eligible for disaster aid from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Farmers have until June to apply for the aid.