CHARLESTON — October’s arrival in West Virginia so far has felt more like the dog days of summer than the traditional time to search closets and dressers for long-sleeved shirts and sweaters.
After three West Virginia cities endured their hottest Septembers on record, record-high temperatures for both Oct. 1 and the entire month of October were set Tuesday in five of the six communities the National Weather Service’s Charleston Forecast Office monitors for official daily climate data.
Federal officials said Thursday drought conditions in West Virginia are worsening as unusually high heat has beat down on the region. Gov. Jim Justice declared a state of emergency for all 55 West Virginia counties due to the prolonged shortage of rainfall.
Statewide, over the past 90 days, West Virginia has received 2-5 inches less rainfall than normal, according to the governor’s office, with some pockets of 5- to 7-inch rainfall deficits across the southern half of the state.
The U.S. Drought Monitor map released Thursday shows large swaths of southern West Virginia in a severe drought, a designation that includes the likely loss of crops and water shortages.
The map also classifies the entire northern part of the state as abnormally dry.
In the weeks leading up to the drought declaration, Huntington, Beckley and Clarksburg all posted record-high mean temperatures for the month of September, while the month was the second-warmest on record in Elkins, third-hottest ever in Charleston and tied for the fourth-warmest in Parkersburg.
On Tuesday, record high temperatures for both Oct. 1 and the entire month of October were set in Huntington, Beckley, Clarksburg, Parkersburg and Elkins.
It reached 95 degrees in both Huntington and Clarksburg on Tuesday, breaking previous highs for Oct. 1 of 90 set in 1952 in the Cabell County city and 94 degrees set in 1953 in the Harrison County town.
Monday’s temperatures also broke previous high temp records for the month of October of 93 degrees set in 1952 for Huntington, and 94 degrees, set in 1927 in Clarksburg.
Last month was as dry as it was hot, with three of the six cities — Huntington, Beckley and Clarksburg — experiencing the least rainfall ever recorded for a September.
A scant .01 inch of rain fell on Huntington, while Beckley received 0.10 inches and Clarksburg recorded 0.56 inches.
For Elkins, last month was the second-driest September on record, with 0.48 inches of precipitation, while Parkersburg matched its third-driest September with 0.55 inches, and Charleston experienced its fourth-driest, with 0.54 inches of rain for the month.
But what a difference a year makes. Last September was the wettest on record for Charleston (11.62 inches), Huntington (10.41 inches) and Beckley (9.98 inches), second-wettest for Clarksburg (9.52 inches) and Elkins (8.16 inches) and third-wettest for Parkersburg (7.99 inches).
More October heat records were possible Thursday, before an anticipated cold front was set to arrive from the northwest Thursday night, bringing high temperatures in the region to the low 70s Friday.