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After record rainfall in 2018, most Kentucky cities nearing new milestones for 2019 precipitation

By Tom Latek
Kentucky Today

Several Kentucky cities had their wettest year ever in 2018 and, according to the latest data from the National Weather Service, rainfall this year in some areas is ahead of last year at the same time.

Last year, Louisville, Lexington, Frankfort and Jackson all set records for annual precipitation, while the Huntington/Ashland area had their second-wettest year and Covington had the third most.

The western part of the state fared a bit better as the Evansville/Henderson area finished sixth and Paducah was No. 10. Bowling Green didn’t crack their top 10 list, although they had a record amount of days with precipitation.

Heavy rain has meant flooding across Kentucky. (Department of Transportation photo)

It’s more of the same in 2019 as eight of those cities have more rain year to date than at this point in 2018, ranging from 0.14 at Huntington/Ashland to 12.66 at Covington. The lone exception is Lexington, which is 1.63 inches below last year.

Joe Sullivan, a forecaster with the National Weather Service office in Louisville, says persistence is the key, whether it’s a drought or excessive rain situation.

“Once you get into this type of pattern, you tend to stay in the pattern,” he said. “We have so much water everywhere that evaporation and transpiration help fuel the thunderstorms. All you need is warm air and instability, because you already have the moisture in place.”

He says he saw the same thing when he was working in Iowa in 1993. “Vice-President Al Gore made a comment about ‘Lake Iowa’ being the sixth Great Lake. We have a stagnant weather pattern with a trough in the west and high pressure over the east,” keeping the same conditions.

“Right now, I don’t see any indications that we are going to see any extreme changes,” said Sullivan. “The one good thing about this is there is no drought situation in the country, although there is starting to be some concerns about the far southeastern U S.”

Sullivan says the National Weather Service bases “normal” climate conditions over a 30-year period, which is currently 1981-2010. That is updated every ten years and he is beginning work on the new climate period, 1991-2020, which will be used starting in 2021. He has some interesting findings.

“Unless we go into a drought that lasts for a year-and-a-half, our average annual precipitation in parts of Kentucky is going to be three to five inches higher than it is now,” he said. “In Louisville, for example, we may go from normal being just under 45 inches to somewhere near 50 inches.”

He says since 1871, when record-keeping began in Louisville, the city has had five years with annual precipitation above 60 inches, with four of the five years being since 2000. The fifth was in 1996, so Kentucky is trending wetter.

Another trend he’s noticed due to the moisture is a lack of extreme heat the last few years. “It’s been so wet since 2010, we haven’t had those 100-degree days that we’ve had in the drier years. So even though the average temperature is going up, the extreme temperatures are coming down.”

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