A series of rainstorms will chip away at long-term drought conditions but may also cause flooding problems in the southern United States during the second half of January.
According to the United States Drought Monitor, many locations from northern Louisiana to the western part of the Carolinas are abnormally dry. A zone of extreme drought continues from northern Alabama to northern Georgia and the western tip of North Carolina.
Despite near-average rainfall since late November, more rain is needed to erase the long-term drought. For example, in Chattanooga, Tennessee, since March 1, 2016, the rainfall deficit is about 18 inches.
While periodic rain and chilly air in recent weeks have doused wildfires, more rain is needed this winter to fill reservoirs, replenish ground water and reduce the chance of wildfires during the upcoming spring wildfire season.
It appears the weather pattern will oblige.
"As many as three storms will sweep through the region in about a week's time, just past the middle of the month," according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Brett Anderson.
"The storms are likely to tap into tropical moisture," Anderson said.
The influx of tropical moisture could result in rainfall ranging from a thorough soaking to flooding downpours.
The amount of rain and extent of flooding will depend on the intensity and track of the individual storms.
One such storm is scheduled to bring soaking rain during the middle days of next week. There is the potential for a general 1 to 2 inches of rain with locally higher amounts.
A second storm may douse the region prior to the end of next week.
A third storm may follow next weekend into part of the following week during Jan. 21-23.
The cumulative rainfall from the group of storms could top 6 inches in some locations from part of the Mississippi Delta region to the southern Appalachians.
Each successive storm will raise the stakes for flooding, in addition to adding runoff into area lakes and seepage deep into the ground.