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Concord Sets Rain Record For July, While Drought Remains In North Country

Three weeks of heavy rain have eased New Hampshire's drought, but it missed the areas that need rain most to recover from more than a year of water deficits.

Northern Coos and Grafton County are still in a moderate to severe drought as of this week, according to the National Drought Monitor. The dry conditions extend into Central and Western Maine and Northern Vermont.

At the same time, Concord reached a record Thursday for the most rain in July since data collection began in 1868, with 10.7 inches – and a week of the month left to go. Concord’s old rainfall record for all of July was 10.3 inches in 1915.

Scientists say these extremes – which have caused flooding that’s prompted rescues oremergency dam controls in some areas – are in line with the warming trend of climate change. It’s bringing greater fluctuation and potential for short-term droughts to the Northeast amid an overall increase in precipitation.

The drought monitor reports that Concord has received 469% more rain so far this month than what’s considered normal for that period.

Forecasters say much of the state and region is on track to reach a similar high water mark for July precipitation, just after an abnormally hot and dry start to the summer. But the North Country hasn’t been so lucky.

"This last weekend, we had the highest flows ever measured in the southern part of the state and the lowest flows ever measured in the northern part of the state on exactly the same day,” Ted Diers, the state watershed management bureau director, said during a panel with NHPR at the Strafford Regional Planning Commission Thursday.

Diers said the state is still 5 inches below average for total rainfall since last July, and depleted groundwater levels and drinking water supplies will need more time to rebound.

"We're still in a groundwater drought in the state even while our surface waters are flooding,” he said.

Ninety local water systems in New Hampshire have restrictions in place on outdoor watering as of this week. Most are mandatory and many are in the southern tier, which is out of drought now but was hardest hit by it last year.

The state is still offering emergency aid for low-income residents whose private home wells run dry due to drought, though Diers said Thursday that many well drilling companies are backed up and not taking new customers due to high demand from the housing market.

Copyright 2021 New Hampshire Public Radio. To see more, visit New Hampshire Public Radio.

Annie Ropeik joined NHPR’s reporting team in 2017, following stints with public radio stations and collaborations across the country. She has reported everywhere from fishing boats, island villages and cargo terminals in Alaska, to cornfields, factories and Superfund sites in the Midwest.
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