One of the driest periods in recent memory will come to an abrupt end over the next several days as Mainers brace for a prolonged storm that is forecast to dump several inches of rain on the region.

Meteorologist Chris Legro, of the National Weather Service in Gray, said rain that began Tuesday night would continue throughout the day Wednesday, at times arriving in torrents. The storm is threatening to bring up to a foot of rain in southern New England, but central Mainers can expect 2 to 4 inches of rainfall by the time it’s over, Legro said. The storm is the precursor of a protracted period of wet weather that could bring rain throughout the upcoming weekend.

“We have a bit of heavy rain heading our way,” Legro said. “It’s looking like a widespread significant rainfall event.”

The good news, at least as far as emergency managers are concerned, is that the rivers and streams have plenty of room to absorb a soaking rainfall, said Kathleen Rusley, spokeswoman for the Maine Emergency Management Agency.

“The thing we have going for us is we are in a semi-drought condition,” Rusley said. “It’s very dry.”

Deputy Chief David Groder, of the Augusta Fire Department, said public works crews were clearing drainage grates of leaves and debris to ensure the runoff can escape. Groder said there was no immediate concern for serious flooding in the Kennebec River or Bond Brook.

“We’re just going to have to watch it,” he said. “We’ll let the system take its course. Obviously, we’ll make adjustments if things change.”

Just 2.49 inches of rain fell in August in Portland, according to the National Weather Service. That total is 0.65 inches below normal. Only 26.76 inches of rain had fallen in 2015 by the end of August, which is good for the driest year since 2003.

While the dearth of rain might have made for a dusty garden this summer, it also has left rivers and streams running well below their banks. Legro said the rain that falls over the next couple of days could affect quickly responding small streams, which is why the weather service posted a flood watch scheduled to run through 8 a.m. Thursday.

“We’ve been dry enough that the larger rivers should be OK,” he said.

The rain is not expected to be accompanied by strong wind, though gusts of up to 30 mph are expected Wednesday afternoon. An astronomical high tide with that wind could create coastal flooding, Rusley said.

“People around the coast, particularly, need to be paying attention to that,” she said.

Legro said the rainfall is the result of a front moving through the region that is otherwise unremarkable for this time of year.

“It’s an early fall system,” he said. “It just happens to pack a lot of moisture with it.”

Forecasters are calling for the rain to end by Thursday, but showers probably will move back into the area by Friday morning. The wet, unsettled weather is expected to last through Monday.

“The heaviest batch will definitely be tonight and Wednesday,” Legro said.

Once the rain moves out, forecasters will turn a more watchful eye to Joaquin, a tropical storm developing strength in the Atlantic Ocean. Legro said the storm’s track is still uncertain, but any potential effect probably would be delayed until early next week.

“The focus is definitely on this rain,” Legro said.

Craig Crosby — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @CraigCrosby4

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