August 2022: Oppressive Heat, Drought, and Localized Flash Flooding

September 8, 2022 // Article by: Steven Weinstein

August started on the same note that July left off, oppressively hot and humid with drought conditions continuing to worsen, as severe to extreme drought overspread many portions of New England, New Jersey, and New York. An active stretch of severe weather and dangerously hot conditions started off August, then it turned quieter before a few notable systems ended the month. While there were some significant flash flooding events across New Jersey and Maryland, it was often too localized. This resulted in many areas once again in a notable precipitation deficit for August.

An overnight system into the 1st brought some much needed rainfall to the Northeast, albeit widely insufficient to combat the drought. This system then set the stage for a hot and tropical-like airmass to dominate during the week as the jet stream lifted well north. The unstable airmass fueled a bout of severe weather on the 4th with numerous wind damage reports occurring across parts of the Mid-Atlantic and especially Maryland. Additionally, a lone waterspout came ashore as an EF-1 tornado on Smith Island, MD, damaging numerous homes and buildings and resulting in one injury. However, flash flooding was also a big story in and around Washington D.C. and Baltimore where localized torrential downpours dropped locally 2-3”+ of rainfall. A frontal boundary then stalled to the north the following day, further exacerbating the flooding issues across Maryland. Additionally, a nearly stationary storm occurred near Lakewood, NJ on the 5th that produced substantial poor drainage and roadway flooding around the city. This resulted in numerous water rescues with locally 4-5” of rain falling in a short time period. Over the next few days, the oppressive heat and humidity continued to build with many areas breaking daily record high temperatures. A prolonged stretch of 90 degree days and heat indices topping out around 100 degrees was noted across the entire East Coast. This heat was especially intense on August 9th where Newark topped out at a whopping 101 degrees, and a daily record high of 97 was set in Boston on the 4th, breaking the old record of 96 set back in 1928.

Structural damage caused by the Smith Island EF-1 tornado on August 4th, 2022. Source: NWS Wakefield

After a severe weather event on the 7th that produced widely scattered wind damage across MA and Southern NH, a potent cold front swept through on the 9th, finally bringing some relief to the oppressive heat and humidity. However, this front then stalled across the Mid-Atlantic the following day, triggering another severe weather event which produced scattered tree and powerline damage across MD and VA. Numerous instances of flash flooding and water rescues also occurred across MD and around Washington D.C. and Baltimore, as locally 2-5” fell with torrential downpours.

Quieter conditions then settled in during the middle part of the month, marked by the absence of any notable rain-producing systems. This was especially true across New England, where a potentially beneficial coastal system on the 17th missed offshore, further exacerbating drought conditions. A system on the 22nd finally provided some relief to the drought across New England and NJ / PA, though it also led to significant flash flooding. Across southern Ocean County, NJ (near Surf City), a nearly stationary storm dumped locally 3-5”+ of rainfall in just a few hours, and flash flooding was also noted later in the day across portions of Hunterdon and Somerset counties in NJ. The heat and humidity then made its return during the latter part of the month with highs back into the 90s for many. This airmass then clashed with a system on the 26th to produce severe weather and with damaging wind gusts across parts of NH, MA, and CT, though locally large hail of up to golf ball sized occurred across Southern NH. This was then followed by a system on the 30th that brought much needed rainfall to the Northeast to close out the month.

Major roadway flooding in Surf City, NJ from storm on August 22nd, 2022. Source: Surf City PDNJ, tweeted by NWS Mt Holly

Overall, the heat during August 2022 was quite notable with most areas seeing high temperatures that were 3-5 degrees above normal. Indeed, Newark, NJ especially felt this heat with the city topping out at or above 90 degrees 18 days during the month, making this the most 90 degree days in August since record keeping began back in 1931! Although localized heavy rain occurred, it wasn’t widespread enough to overcome the growing rainfall deficits and worsening drought conditions. Specifically, most areas finished the month 2-3.5” below the 30 day normal for rainfall, with the 60 day deficit across portions of NNJ and the Hudson Valley growing to a whopping 5-8” below normal. This lack of rainfall extended into Boston where just over 1” fell, well below the normal of 3.13”.