No Drought Here!

By Jay Young, July 2012

As I drove my commute to Adventures On the Gorge this morning, the radio news barked the same tired tune it has for weeks. Talking heads blurted line after line that have become all too familiar recently… “historical drought, record low rainfall, wildfires, crops across the country wiped out, growers already planning for the increased price of food next year!”

As I passed the south rim of the New River Gorge and slipped onto the Bridge 900 feet above the water, the clouds (yes, clouds) broke briefly. I veered closer to the guardrail to score a peek at the river below, and as I expected, dramatic rainfall last night had already brought the New River up to a coursing, roiling deluge of fun. “Oh, yeah,” I thought. “It’s gonna be one heck of a weekend.”

While much of the country is suffering through record dryness, for the last several weeks, we have had no shortage of rain and water in our rivers. Boggles the mind, it does—why us? So, I decided to dig a little deeper into the science of our current weather pattern.

“You guys are actually 5 inches above normal for the year,” said Meteorologist, Patrick Wilson, of the National Weather Service in Blacksburg, VA. “You have 6 inches of rain this month alone!”

“Your mountains really help a lot,” he explained.

But that’s not the whole story. As we emerge from the 2011-12 la Niña cycle, the New River Gorge finds itself in the middle of a favorable storm track that begins in the northern Great Plains, sweeps across the Great Lakes and then plunges down toward us. Pregnant with moisture and energy, storm after storm climbs the western slope of the Appalachians, and as they drop off the eastern side, they release all that moisture and energy, “very efficiently,” as Wilson put it.

Long story short, there ain’t no drought here. On the contrary, we have so much water… we’re rafting in it. Even the Gauley is running right now—with just enough sun to keep the zip lines, et al, nice and dry! It’s weather perfection, I tell you.