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HomeNewsLocal newsDrought Worsens Across the USVI and Puerto Rico; Conditions Forecast to Continue

Drought Worsens Across the USVI and Puerto Rico; Conditions Forecast to Continue

Relatively low rainfall has worsened drought conditions in portions of the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. The dry weather is forecast to continue despite previous predictions of the drought ending across the local islands.

“Below-normal precipitation was observed across the islands since December 1, resulting in drought deterioration for Puerto Rico and continued drought across St. Thomas and St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands,” according to information contained in an update released on January 18 from the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

“Drought conditions are expected to persist as the dry season continues across the northeastern Caribbean,” the update continued.

The NIDIS report explained that St. Croix and St. Thomas are experiencing a drought despite significant rainfall during October and November 2023. St. John is currently drought-free, but the island may enter a drought soon.

The “U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook” indicates drought conditions will persist across Puerto Rico and the USVI. St. John may also enter drought categorization soon. (Photo courtesy NIDIS)

“For the past 60 days, rainfall amounts ranged from 2 to 6 inches across St. Croix, 4 to 6 inches in St. Thomas, and 2 to 5 inches in St. John,” according to the NIDIS update. “The rains in St. Croix this past November allowed for one-class improvement in the U.S. Drought Monitor, from Severe (D2) to a Moderate Drought (D1) classification. However, D2 conditions prevail in St. Thomas. The island of St. John remains free of dryness or drought,” the update noted.

While Puerto Rico saw some drought improvement late last year, the territory has also suffered from a lack of recent rainfall. The NIDIS report noted, “91 percent of the island is either in drought or experiencing Abnormally Dry (D0) conditions.”

“During the past 60 days, almost all of Puerto Rico has observed below-normal precipitation. In fact, most of the interior as well as Vieques and Culebra have only collected 25 percent to 50 percent of normal, while the northwest only saw 10 percent to 25 percent of normal,” the NIDIS explained.

Drought Impacts

So far this year, a lack of water has negatively impacted farmers across both territories. In addition to less rain, agriculturalists have experienced strong winds and warm temperatures, which, in addition to other meteorological factors, can help cause evaporation rates to increase, leading to drier soil.

Worsening conditions have negatively impacted farmers in Puerto Rico and the USVI. Left, soil has been hard, dry, and cracking at a school farm in southern Puerto Rico in this photo provided by Agro Adrián Vázquez Bandas. Right, vegetation and forage deteriorated on a livestock farm in this photo provided by rancher Harry Ramírez. (Photos courtesy NIDIS)

On Puerto Rico, “dry, windy, and hot conditions are starting to lead to dry soils and vegetation in parts of the island, with fires reported,” the NIDIS said. “These dry conditions are also helping with land preparation for upcoming planting in some areas,” the NIDIS continued.

Across the USVI, “high winds and few rains are causing a loss in soil moisture, and the vegetation is starting to show signs of stress,” the NIDIS explained. “Water access and poultry production are also negatively impacted,” the report added.

The NIDIS update 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 Informed About the Weather     

The NIDIS expects the drought to continue and possibly deteriorate further across both U.S. territories, noting that St. John may soon fall into drought classification.

Drought monitor graphic showing the USVI and Puerto Rico. Drought conditions have deteriorated across both U.S. territories. (Photo courtesy NIDIS)

“The Seasonal Drought Outlook calls for persistent drought conditions across the eastern interior, southwest, and northwest of Puerto Rico,” according to the NIDIS. “Drought conditions are also expected to continue across St. Thomas and St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands, while it is likely that drought conditions will develop across St. John as we move into the dry season [which runs from about November/December through May/June],” the NIDIS warned.

Residents and agriculturalists can stay updated on the latest drought information on the NIDIS website.

The local weather forecast is also regularly updated on the Source Weather Page and VI Source YouTube Channel. Individuals can also sign up for emergency alerts from the Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency and the National Weather Service.

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