Hurricane Idalia A Drought Buster?


  • A stalled front, then Hurricane Idalia, will bring soaking rain to parts of the South.
  • That includes areas that have slipped quickly into drought this summer.
  • However, the heaviest rain is likely to miss the worst of the flash drought in Texas and Louisiana.
  • It could help extinguish a weird western Florida drought, though.

What will eventually become Hurricane Idalia in the Gulf of Mexico will bring soaking rain to parts of the South that could provide relief for some, but not all, suffering from a flash drought from Texas to Florida.

W​here the drought is right now: P​ersistent hot and dry weather this summer, including the most recent record-smashing heat wave, lead to a flash drought over parts of the South. That’s a term for a drought that develops relatively quickly, on the order of weeks, rather than many months.

I​n early June, much of the area near the Gulf Coast wasn’t even considered dry.

But just over two months later, t​he latest Drought Monitor analysis shows a swath from central and eastern Texas into Louisiana categorized in the two highest (worst) drought categories. Lower levels of drought have also spread across the Gulf Coast from southern Mississippi to the Florida Panhandle.

(​MORE: Where The Hottest Summer On Record Is Already Clinched)


Drought Monitor Analysis

(Areas in most significant drought are in the darker red and brown contours. Areas shaded in yellow are considered “abnormally dry”, but not yet in drought. (Analysis: NDMC/USDA/NOAA))

This flash drought has had impacts, already. Over the past week, wildfires prompted evacuations in parts of Louisiana and east Texas. Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards issued a statewide burn ban Friday, and most Texas counties were also under burn bans.

In central Texas, Belton Lake near Temple has set record low levels each day since late June. Nearby Waco, Texas, hadn’t seen measurable rain since before Father’s Day.

Prospects for soaking rain: First, scattered thunderstorms along a sagging frontal system unrelated to Idalia will bring at least some soaking rain to parts of the South through Monday from Texas to the Carolinas and Virginia.

W​hile this forecast depends on the track, it appears the heaviest rain from Idalia will stretch from northern, possibly parts of western Florida into the Carolinas. At least some bands of locally heavy rain are possible in parts of southern Alabama, southern Mississippi and southeast Louisiana, as well.

H​owever, much lighter precipitation amounts are expected from southwest Louisiana into Texas, where the worst of the flash drought is in place.

F​urthermore, winds on the periphery of Idalia could actually raise the threat of rapid wildfire spread in areas farther west over Mississippi and Louisiana, particularly if those bands of rain don’t develop, there.

(​MORE: Interactive Storm Tracker)


Rainfall Forecast

(This should be interpreted as a broad outlook of where the heaviest rain may fall and may shift based on the forecast path of the tropical cyclone. Higher amounts may occur where bands of rain stall over a period of a few hours. This also includes some rain that may fall apart from the storm in the Southeast. )

I​dalia could erase America’s strangest drought. There is a small area of west-central and southwest Florida that is also in drought, generally from Tampa-St. Petersburg to Naples.

It’s a weird place for a drought because summer is Florida’s wet season, with slow-moving, sometimes daily thunderstorms. While the state’s Atlantic side has been wet, Sarasota is having its driest year-to-date in over 100 years by a long shot, over 24 inches behind their typical pace.

Adding to the oddity was record low streamflow for mid-August in western Florida’s Myakka River. Just over 10 months ago, torrential rain from Hurricane Ian produced record flooding along stretches of that same river, and others nearby.

So this could be a flood to drought to soaking three-part lurch in less than a year’s time in this part of western Florida.

drought flash FL weird 22aug23

Current drought status in the southern U.S. as of Aug. 22, 2023, with the current western Florida Peninsula drought highlighted.


Jonathan Erdman is a senior meteorologist at and has been covering national and international weather since 1996. His lifelong love of meteorology began with a close encounter with a tornado as a child in Wisconsin. He studied physics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, then completed his Master’s degree working with dual-polarization radar and lightning data at Colorado State University. Extreme and bizarre weather are his favorite topics. Reach out to him on X (formerly Twitter), Threads and Facebook.

The Weather Company’s primary journalistic mission is to report on breaking weather news, the environment and the importance of science to our lives. This story does not necessarily represent the position of our parent company, IBM.

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