Drought relief on the way as St. Louis braces for winter storms

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ST. LOUIS – The drought situation in the St. Louis area has been holding pretty steady lately, but upcoming storm systems bring some potential for improvement.

While river levels look low, experts say there’s really no concern at the moment and that levels are around average.

“I know it looks bad when you look at it, but its pretty much what they typically see this time of year,” said Mark Fuchs, Senior Service Hydrologist with the National Weather Service in St. Louis. “The Mississippi at St. Louis in particular today is at the 55th percentile of all flows that are seen on January 5th. So that’s pretty good.”

St. Louis radar: See a map of current weather here

In order to improve the drought situation, we want to see above-normal precipitation in a week. 

“And of course, above-normal precipitation is even better. And it gives us an opportunity to improve the drought monitor classifications when that happens,” said Fuchs. 

Late Monday into Tuesday, we expect significant precipitation which could improve the drought. 

“Amounts wise, we might be seeing anywhere between around an inch or maybe two inches or so, if I’m being optimistic. That’s certainly possible. And that’s all well above what we typically get in a given week in January,” he said. 

And an inch of precipitation in the middle of winter has a lot more benefit to the soil and groundwater than in the summer. 

“With that colder air, your evapotranspiration rates are essentially nil. Compared to what they are in the middle of summer,” explained Fuchs. “Basically, what leads to any precipitation is usually a net gain.” 

The heavier precipitation will lead to some runoff and an improvement in our river levels. 

“That will lead to some rises. Nothing huge but certainly to help the navigation industry breathe a little easier along the St. Louis harbor,” Fuchs said. 

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