Northern Va. drought worsens amid snowless, rainless winter

WASHINGTON — The region’s unusually dry winter is getting worse and the National Drought Monitor declared all of Stafford County and the Fredericksburg area in a severe drought Thursday.

The rest of the region remains locked in a moderate drought.

The Drought Monitor is a collaboration between the National Drought Mitigation Center, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Stafford County Fire Chief Mark Lockhart urged residents to use extreme caution with outdoor fire pits, noting a recent increase in brush fires. Lockhart said the Stafford fire department has responded to 19 brush fires so far this month, compared to fewer than a dozen last January. The county fire marshal has not implemented a burn ban but county officials continue to monitor the dry conditions.

The Virginia Department of Forestry said that 37 wildfires have been reported across 109 acres since the start of the month.

Just 1.28 inches of precipitation has been recorded for D.C. since the start of winter — nearly 4 inches below average.

The western suburbs have seen slightly more rain and snow since early December. At Dulles Airport, 2.41 inches of precipitation has been fallen but the tally for the winter remains several inches below average.

Storm Team4 Meteorologist Matt Ritter said the effects of the drought are limited at this stage of the winter.

“Right now the drought is considered short term — that means the primary impacts are dry top soil and dry brush. If the drought were to continue as we start getting closer to spring, we would start having long-term effects — that’s when you’re talking about the waterways and the water tables and the wells,” Ritter said.

Numerous U.S. Geological Survey gauges show below normal streamflow conditions across Northern Virginia and central Maryland.

Virginia drought conditions. (Courtesy National Drought Mitigation Center/NOAA/USDA/Richard Heim)
Maryland drought conditions. (Courtesy National Drought Mitigation Center/NOAA/USDA/Richard Heim)
Dave Dildine

A native to the Washington area, Dave Dildine is no stranger to the region's complex traffic and weather patterns. Dave joined WTOP in 2010 when the station launched its very own in-house traffic service. You can hear him "on the 8s and when it breaks" from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays.

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