The heavy rain that occurred across portions of the USVI and Puerto Rico during October has helped to improve drought conditions across both U.S. territories. Conditions are expected to continue to get better over the next few months across the region.
“[In the USVI,] recent rains significantly improved drought conditions across all three islands,” according to an update released on Thursday from the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
The NIDIS explained that less than 3 percent of Puerto Rico remains in a drought. Notably, in the USVI, the island of St. John is currently no longer categorized as experiencing drought conditions.
“Many locations in St. John saw an excess of 15 inches of rain in October, with a location in Cruz Bay reporting 17.75 inches, which is the wettest since 1984,” according to the NIDIS update.
The precipitation dramatically helped St. Thomas and St. Croix as well. The NIDIS report noted that the two islands have progressed from being categorized as experiencing an “Exceptional Drought” to currently experiencing a “Severe Drought,” which is a two-level category improvement.
“Most locations in St. Croix saw six to eight inches of rain in October, resulting in a two-category improvement in drought conditions. On St. Thomas, rainfall totals were generally at least 160 percent of normal island-wide, with rainfall totals in the eight to 12-inch range. Cyril King Airport saw 8.69 inches, which is its wettest October since 2010,” the update explained.
Puerto Rico received ample rainfall as well, with San Juan recording its “wettest October since 2006, and nearly double the 30-year normal of 5.2 inches,” as reported by the NIDIS.
Relief for Farmers and Livestock
Although the drought continues, farmers and their livestock have seen some positive benefits from the rainy weather. Still, challenges persist, including recent fears of over-saturated soils, particularly in Puerto Rico.
“The recent rains [across Puerto Rico] were beneficial to some aspects of farm production, and pastures recovered well. However, there are concerns about potential over-saturation of the soils as well as erosion and flooding if rains continue at high intensities. Streamflow in western Puerto Rico has not yet fully recovered,” the NIDIS noted.
Across the USVI, farmers reported improvements that have helped plants and animals.
“Farmers and livestock farmers are still feeling the impacts of recent drought conditions, but recent rains helped with planting, and cisterns are filling up,” according to the update.
The NIDIS reported that agriculturalists experiencing hardship due to the drought may qualify for financial aid.
“According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, St. Croix and St. Thomas have already qualified for a ‘2023 Secretarial drought disaster declaration,’ based on the U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM). Similarly, livestock producers in St. Croix and St. Thomas qualified for direct assistance through the USDM-driven Livestock Forage Program (LFP),” the update said.
Stay Updated on the Drought
The forecast calls for continuous drought improvement across the area over the next few months.
“Current drought conditions on the islands are expected to improve and/or be eliminated by the end of January,” the NIDIS stated.
Residents and agriculturalists can stay updated on the latest drought conditions on the National Integrated Drought Information System website.
Weather information is also updated regularly on the Source Weather Page. USVI residents and visitors can also sign up for emergency alerts from the Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency and the National Weather Service.