If Friday’s downpour in Ithaca felt like a month’s worth of rain, that’s because it was.
The 3.44 inches of rain that drenched the campus Friday edged the average historical rainfall for all of October in Ithaca by .02 inches, according to the Northeast Regional Climate Center at Cornell.
Following booming thunder and frequent flashes of lightning the night before, Friday’s rain was the 13th greatest single-day precipitation in Ithaca since 1893, according to Samantha Borisoff, a climatologist at Cornell’s Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences.
The last time Ithaca experienced a one-day rainfall rivaling Friday’s was on Sept. 8, 2011, when 4.43 inches of rain closed roads, downed trees and flooded basements at Ithaca High School, according to The Ithaca Journal.
“Rainfall of this magnitude is only expected to occur on average once in a 10 year period,” Borisoff said.
While Tompkins County continues to struggle with a Stage Two drought that does not show signs of relenting, the heavy rain on Friday brought this month’s total rainfall — now pegged at 6.17 inches — to more than two times the average precipitation historically recorded through Oct. 24, according to Borisoff. It was also the third-greatest one-day precipitation total in October in more than 120 years in Ithaca.
Borisoff said Friday’s storm “likely helped improve drought conditions” but warned that “there are still longer-term precipitation deficits.”
Despite the deluge, Ithaca is still 4.28 inches behind normal rainfall at this point in the year, according to Borisoff. The heavy rain on Friday will help, but Mark Wysocki, a senior lecturer in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, explained that the ground cannot absorb large amounts of water over short periods of time.
Steady rainfall over a period of weeks and months, in addition to snowfall, will most help to dispel the drought, Wysocki said.