Beneficial rain is finally on the way for the central U.S., including the bone-dry Mississippi River watershed, as a strong autumn storm system from the northern Plains makes its way eastward toward the drought-stricken regions in the nation's midsection by the start of next week.
Many locations across the central U.S. are running more than 10 inches below average for rainfall in 2022. This lack of rain has caused the Mississippi River to drop to historically low levels, with a nearly 400-mile stretch of the river from Tennessee to Louisiana at or below what is considered the "low water" threshold.
The water levels are so low that saltwater from the Gulf of Mexico is rushing upstream to fill the gap. This is happening because of the ongoing drought conditions across most of the Mississippi River watershed, which covers nearly 41% of the continental U.S., including much of the Plains and the Midwest.
And while some rain has fallen recently, it takes nearly a month for that rainwater to drain into this dry stretch of the river basin, and even then, it's not enough to fill the void.
But the FOX Forecast Center has some good news. A strong low-pressure moving across the northern Plains this weekend will also sweep eastward into the rest of the Plains and Mississippi Valley early next week.
Scattered showers and thunderstorms are expected as the storm system and its associated cold front push east. This front will team up with plentiful moisture from the Gulf of Mexico, creating the potential for heavy rain from the southern Plains to the lower Mississippi Valley.
"Finally seeing a pattern shift here, especially in the Northwest, and that's really where it all starts," FOX Weather meteorologist Britta Merwin said. "As long as we can get these systems moving into the Northwest, that eventually translates into some good water that's going to be moving over the (Mississippi River) watershed."
Between 1 and 3 inches of rain is expected to fall from Monday into Tuesday across a region stretching from North Texas to Oklahoma, Arkansas, eastern Kansas, Missouri and parts of Illinois. This will be the most rainfall since August in Dallas-Fort Worth.
This rain will not be enough to raise the Mississippi River's water levels back to normal, as any rain that does fall will take time to drain into the river. However, the rain may help in preventing the water levels from dropping any further.