WASHINGTON – This year is shaping up to be a rainfall record-breaker in parts of the state.
The Baltimore area was about 2 inches away from beating the 1889 record of 62.35 inches as of Friday, when rainfall totals at Baltimore-Washington International Airport totaled 60.47 inches. That is more than 20 inches above normal rainfall levels.
Glenn Dale, in Prince George’s County, has already exceeded its old record of 60.44 inches set in 1948, recording 62.57 inches of rain by Nov. 30.
And the seven-day forecast from the National Weather Service calls for rain, freezing rain or snow Saturday night through Monday. More rain and possibly snow are forecast for Thursday.
“This is certainly a landmark year, no matter how you look at it,” said Gary Fisher, a hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey.
Although he could not immediately name specific locations, state climatologist Ken Pickering said that many other areas across the state are already close to the record, and will likely break those records over the next two weeks.
Excessive rain has also resulted in very high levels of water flowing into the Chesapeake Bay. Fisher said 2003 will see at least the third-highest flow recorded by the U.S. Geological Survey since 1972, when Hurricane Agnes hit.
While the rain has replenished drought-depleted water tables, it has also raised the possibility of flooding. The combination of rain and melting snow this week caused some flooding of the upstream Potomac River in portions of Western Maryland, Pickering said.
The saturated ground has also made farming difficult this year, said Paul Gunther, Queen Anne’s County extension director.
“Any living plant needs to have air in the soil to breathe,” he said. “Once you reach that saturation point you know that all the air is out of there.”
Wheat and hay crops have been especially affected, as have sod farms and nurseries.
“The wet weather is devastating to all of them,” Gunther said.
The rain has drowned a lot of trees and rotted many roots, said Craig Higgs, general manager of a 200-acre shade tree farm on the Eastern Shore.
There was so much rain this summer that Higgs only ran the irrigation system part of one day. Last year, he irrigated every single day of the season, from April all the way through early November.
He saved thousands of dollars in diesel fuel costs, but those savings pale in comparison to the loss of trees this year.
“When it’s dry, you can water,” he said, “but when you have too much rain there’s nothing you can really do.”