By Renee Duff, AccuWeather meteorologist
May 22,2017, 2:47:16PM,EDT
Rounds of rain sweeping across the southeastern United States into midweek will raise the risk of flooding, but also provide drought and wildfire relief.“A one-two punch of storm systems will bring a considerable amount of rain to parts of the South this week,” AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Frank Strait said.
Much of Georgia and Florida have been left a tinderbox as abnormally dry to extreme drought conditions are plaguing over 88 and 81 percent of each state, respectively.
It has been a different story farther west from New Orleans to Biloxi, Mississippi; Mobile and Montgomery, Alabama; and Pensacola, Florida, where rainfall through the first three weeks of the month has already exceeded May averages.
Montgomery, Alabama, was flooded by 8.15 inches of rain on Saturday, shattering the daily rainfall record of 2 inches from 1980 and setting a new record for the wettest May day in the city.
“The good news is areas that have been very dry will see a decent amount of rain,” Strait said. “However, this comes with the bad news of more rain for areas that have been very wet, which can lead to flooding.”
Rises can occur on streams and rivers as the water runs off the saturated soil, potentially flooding neighboring roads and lands.
Even where flooding does not ensue, delays can occur on the road as motorists slow down due to reduced visibility and the heightened risk of hydroplaning at highway speeds.
Downpours threatening the South Central states with flooding to start the week will sweep into the Southeast into Tuesday. Another round of soaking rain and thunderstorms will gather over the region at midweek.
A widespread 2 to 4 inches of rain with local amounts up to 6 inches is possible through Wednesday.
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On the bright side, the rain will put a damper on ongoing wildfires in the drought-stricken areas, including the West Mims Fire which has been raging in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge near the Florida-Georgia border since April 6. According to InciWeb, the fire has burned over 152,000 acres and is 60 percent contained.
However, any lightning strikes that accompany the rain could spark new blazes.
Further damage could occur should the storms turn locally severe with wind gusts that are high enough to knock over trees and power lines.
Hail and even a brief tornado spin up are also possible amid the strongest thunderstorms. This threat will be greatest from southern Georgia through northern and central Florida at midweek.
Drier air will press in behind the storms, bringing clearing first to the lower Mississippi Valley and then to the southern Atlantic Seaboard during the second half of the week.