Parts of the state are enduring dry conditions for the third straight year, but Thursday’s rain and more in the weeks ahead may prevent problems.

Rain and humidity might be wreaking havoc with your garden – or your hair – but don’t be fooled. Southern Maine is actually experiencing a drought.

For the third straight year, parts of the state are experiencing dry conditions, although they’re not severe enough to prompt warnings about water restrictions or dry wells. There has already been some relief and more is likely on the way, forecasters say.

Storms that produced torrential rains drenched southern Maine on Thursday afternoon. Lewiston, Augusta and Portland each got more than an inch of rain in less than two hours, according to the National Weather Service. Meteorologist Derek Schroeter said the weather service issued a flash flood warning for Lewiston at 4:38 p.m.

Schroeter said Lewiston, which got 1.42 inches of rain Thursday, reported that the Greyhound bus station at Bates and Ash streets, as well as sections of Stanley Street, were flooded. Auburn reported 1.3 inches of rain between 3:15 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. The Portland International Jetport got 1.03 inches, and 1.09 inches fell in Augusta.

More rain is forecast for the Portland area Friday evening, Schroeter said. The muggy air and rain are being generated by a Bermuda High that Schroeter said is blowing up from the Caribbean. Maine is sitting on the western edge of that system.

But Thursday’s downpours weren’t enough to counter the drought conditions in southern Maine, Schroeter said.

The southern half of the state, and a strip across the far northern part, are either experiencing a moderate drought or abnormally dry conditions, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

The state’s Emergency Management Agency sent out a news release Thursday warning of worsening drought conditions, but the same release also noted that forecasters are expecting much of the next month to be rainier than normal.

“We’re entering a rainier period and hope that will improve things,” said Tom Hawley, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Gray. The drought monitor predicts that its drought warning in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont will likely be removed by the end of October.

Hawley said 3 to 6 inches of rainfall expected over the next four weeks should bring most parts of the state back to normal conditions. If so, the drought warning would be lifted, as it was this week in southern New England, which experienced dry or drought conditions in early July.

Maine has experienced summer droughts for the past three years. Before 2016, when the state experienced a nearly yearlong drought, the state hadn’t experienced widespread drought conditions since 2002. Wells ran dry in many parts of the state in 2016, and some homeowners were forced to order tankers full of water from private companies to recharge their supplies.

Hawley said there were few worries about drought through the past spring after the melting of a heavy snowpack. But May was very dry – many areas got less than an inch of rain all month – and June and July have been generally hot and dry, he said.

Susan Faloon, spokeswoman for the state Emergency Management Agency, said the agency hasn’t received any formal reports of wells running dry, but some homeowners have said water levels in their wells are low.

Faloon said residents may notice rivers rising with the rain and assume that the problem has passed. But, she said, the agency is hoping for steady rain, allowing water to seep down into the ground where it can recharge wells.

The agency has convened a task force to assess the situation, she said, similar to a group that keeps an eye on flooding in the spring when the snow melts and ice jams sometimes form in rivers. Right now, she said, the task force is just keeping an eye on conditions and reminding homeowners with wells to conserve water.

Faloon said the agency operates a website, maineprepares.com, with tips for preparing for disasters such as drought. She said if state and federal agencies begin offering aid, links to those agencies and aid programs will be added for homeowners, farmers and other businesses.

Hawley said that he hasn’t heard any reports about farms having problems because of dry conditions. The most recent haying apparently went well, according to reports he received from farmers. Haying can provide an early read on whether other crops are being hurt by drought.

Now Hawley, like the farmers, will be looking to the skies for relief.

“We’re hoping most places will get enough rain to ease conditions,” he said.

Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

[email protected]

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