Tuesday downpour in Chattanooga region helps wildfire battle but little gain made in ongoing drought

Staff Photo by Robin Rudd / A truck drives through standing water in the 3500 block of St. Elmo Avenue on Tuesday. Firefighters across the region welcomed heavy rains that helped slow down or quench area wildfires that have dogged the tristate area in recent weeks. The downpour didnt help ongoing drought conditions much, and the forecast calls for dry conditions for Thanksgiving and a slight chance of rain through the weekend.
Staff Photo by Robin Rudd / A truck drives through standing water in the 3500 block of St. Elmo Avenue on Tuesday. Firefighters across the region welcomed heavy rains that helped slow down or quench area wildfires that have dogged the tristate area in recent weeks. The downpour didnt help ongoing drought conditions much, and the forecast calls for dry conditions for Thanksgiving and a slight chance of rain through the weekend.


Firefighters across the region Tuesday welcomed heavy rains that helped slow or quench area wildfires that have dogged the tristate area in recent weeks.

"We're thankful for it," Joel Blackburn, assistant forester for the Tennessee Division of Forestry in East Tennessee, said in a phone call. "Our fire danger today is low — it's been super helpful."

Over the weekend, state and federal forestry officials warned of winds as high as 60 mph or more preceding Tuesday's rain with the potential to spread wildfires. By Tuesday morning, the soaking had begun.

In counties without burn bans in place, Blackburn said burn permits could be issued again in the next few days. Anyone who needs to burn should contact their local fire officials to see if permitting has been restored.

(READ MORE: Last month was the driest September in Chattanooga since 1919)

"If a county's under a burn ban, then no permits can be issued until it's lifted," Blackburn said.

The forecast for Thanksgiving weekend will be mostly cool and dry with a chance of rain Friday and Monday, said Doug Schneider, the meteorologist on duty Tuesday at the National Weather Service office in Morristown, Tennessee. Tuesday's drenching brought relief to Chattanooga region wildfires.


By 11 a.m. Tuesday, rainfall estimates for Chattanooga stood at 0.8 to 1 inch of rain, Schneider said in a phone call.

"That's pretty good," he said around noon, "and it looks like there's more to come. It's much-needed for the wildfires that have been going on."

However, rainfall this week will have a lesser effect on the ongoing exceptional drought gripping the region, he said. The Chattanooga region is about 9.5 inches behind in rainfall for the year.

"It'll make a small dent in it, but we need a few more events like this one to have a recovery from our rainfall deficit," Schneider said.

(READ MORE: As Earth warms, more 'flash droughts' suck soil, plants dry)

Area firefighters needed the break, Blackburn said of hopes for a few days of respite.

"We hope our guys can get some rest and can spend Thanksgiving with their families," he said.

Contact Ben Benton at [email protected] or 423-757-6569.


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