August rains clear drought in three-quarters of Nevada

By: - September 8, 2023 4:34 pm

Rain came late this year, but it came. (Photo: Kelly J. Mays/Nevada Current)

More than three-quarters of Nevada are fully drought free after an abnormally wet August in the state.

Nearly 80% of the state is drought-free with no severe or significant drought for the first time since April 2020, according to the National Weather Service.

Only Clark County remains in drought watch. Still, two powerful storm systems — Tropical Storm Hilary and the recent monsoonal — brought ample rain to Clark County. One federally operated sensor near Mount Charleston recorded 5.61 inches of rain over a 30-day period.

It’s a vast improvement from last August, when nearly a third of the state was in the highest category of exceptional drought, and 99.5% of the state was in at least severe drought.

Storms in August and early September also improved soil moisture throughout Nevada, which may help limit wildfire the rest of the summer. 

Monsoon season in the Southwest typically brings rain to Nevada starting in July, but this year the monsoon was a bit tardy, bringing last minute rains in late August and early September.

Nevada was already in position to improve drought conditions at the start of the summer, thanks to the robust snow packs it received over the winter.

Almost all of Nevada’s reservoirs are at or above their usual late-July levels. Lake Mead on the Colorado river is still at only 32% of capacity, but federal water managers said they believe Lake Mead levels will only continue to rise through winter before dropping in spring. 

Abundant rain brought a number of issues to the state as well, including interstate closures near Las Vegas and Burning Man Festival attendees being stranded for several days after the event due to massive flooding.

Federal resource managers say August proved to be an especially wet month for not only Nevada, but many parts of the west.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service said many of their weather stations across the west recorded the highest-ever August precipitation rates, including stations with 15 years of data on record.

Tropical Storm Hilary was responsible for most of the monthly rainfall in Nevada as it moved through California before tracking further northeast, according to the service.

Seasonal monsoonal flow brought even more precipitation to the Southwest region on September 1, as a surge of tropical moisture pushed into the region and continued northward across the Great Basin, Intermountain West, and the Rockies.

The highest amounts of rain reported from the tropical moisture flow were across the interior southeastern California, over much of the middle Colorado River Basin, and across scattered areas farther north.

Most of the nation, however, endured a hotter and drier-than-normal August, including most areas of drought.

Other parts of the west also experienced subpar monsoon rains, including eastern Arizona, New Mexico, and southwestern Colorado. Dryness and drought also continued over large parts of Washington and Oregon, as well as northern parts of Idaho and Montana. 

With the monsoonal wet season winding down during September, federal resource managers say the odds for heavy precipitation for those states decline, and “the prospects for significant relief from the intensifying dryness and drought become progressively worse.”

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Jeniffer Solis
Jeniffer Solis

Jeniffer was born and raised in Las Vegas, Nevada where she attended the University of Nevada, Las Vegas before graduating in 2017 with a B.A in Journalism and Media Studies.