A freak weather year bringing extreme drought to typically wet areas was particularly damaging for Louisiana, according to the latest update to the U.S. Drought Monitoring Map.
A series of unusual weather events have occurred this year, from a tropical storm triggering torrential rain in California to a risk of flooding in Death Valley, the hottest place on Earth. With this in mind, wildfires have become a concern in Louisiana as widespread and severe drought grips the state, known as one of the wettest states in the United States, second only to Hawaii.
Hot, dry weather is an anomaly in Louisiana, known for its swamps and wetlands, often complemented by hurricanes and tropical storms that make landfall after gaining strength in the Gulf of Mexico. The low-lying region is often flooded, mitigating any fuel for wildfires.
However, it is precisely the wildfires that are harming Louisiana this year. The state has been parched by drought, and last month’s intense heat fueled more than 550 wildfires that consumed thousands of acres of land.
A year ago, no region of Louisiana suffered from drought, but the current map from the U.S. Drought Monitor tells a much different story. As of Thursday — the map’s most recent update — 30 percent of the state was suffering from exceptional drought, the most severe drought marker according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Two-thirds of the state faced extreme drought, with 90 percent of the state classified as severe drought. Only 0.1 percent, a small strip along the northern part of the state, was spared from drought.
The map shows that about 4.5 million people – in a state with a population of 4.6 million – live in drought-affected areas. Gov. John Bel Edwards recently issued a warning to residents about deteriorating conditions.
“All areas of Louisiana are abnormally dry, and many areas are experiencing exceptional drought,” he said. job on X, formerly Twitter, Monday morning with the updated map from the US Drought Monitor. “These conditions continue to make the danger of wildfires extremely high. Please do your part to protect our state and respect the burn ban.”
AccuWeather Meteorologist Alex DaSilva said News week that most of the state experienced one of its five hottest summers on record from June to August, with some areas, including New Orleans, experiencing the hottest year on record.
DaSilva said Louisiana relies on tropical systems in the Gulf of Mexico for much of its summer moisture, but the state has not experienced tropical storms or other moisture surges this summer.
The most severe drought occurred in the country’s southwest, where the Tiger Island Fire near the town of Merryville, just east of the Texas border, prompted evacuations in late August. The fire is the largest in state history and continues to burn. It has consumed more than 31,000 acres and is only 75 percent contained, according to the Fire Weather and Avalanche Center.
Conditions are rapidly deteriorating in Louisiana. Just three months ago, more than half the state was spared from drought. Last year the situation was radically different, with no drought reported. At that time, California was experiencing excessive drought and the wildfires that often accompany dry weather. California is now almost completely drought-free.
A year ago, no region in California was completely safe from drought, with more than 16 percent of the state experiencing exceptional drought. Today, nearly 94 percent of the state is drought-free. Only 0.22 percent are classified as experiencing moderate drought, and about 6 percent are experiencing “abnormally dry” conditions.
Louisiana will have to wait a little longer to see drought relief, but DaSilva said forecasts show October will bring much-needed moisture to the region, as well as cooler temperatures.