The rain fell and so did a March record

March 30, 1994|By David Michael Ettlin and Melody Simmons | David Michael Ettlin and Melody Simmons,Sun Staff Writers

Pumps and waterproofing supplies were in big demand yesterday in the wake of a three-day rainstorm that washed away a March precipitation record.

By late yesterday morning, when the rain had ended at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, the month's total precipitation had reached 8.54 inches -- exceeding the record there of 8.12 inches set last year.

Baltimore's three suburban reservoirs were overflowing, making shortages unlikely for months to come, and slowed the onslaught of spring allergies by washing away the first bursts of pollen.

At the Conowingo Dam, where U.S. 1 crosses the Susquehanna River, spectators were stopping to watch water gushing through the floodgates. The PECO Energy Co. opened as many as 22 of the nearly mile-long dam's 50 floodgates yesterday -- nearly as many as the peak of 26 during last spring's runoff, spokesman Don Taskey said.

For farmers, the rain amounted to one more March mess that is likely to further hurt the crop of green peas in a planting season delayed by winter ice storms.

Plantings of other cold weather crops such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower also might be slowed because of the soggy soil, said Carroll D. Homann of the Maryland Agricultural Statistics Service.

"Really, not much of anything's being planted," Mr. Homann said. "You can't get the heavy equipment on the fields. They just break down and get stuck."

The effect on homeowners was readily apparent at hardware stores. Sump pumps have sold out at Montebello Plumbing & Hardware on Harford Road for the first time since Hurricane Agnes in 1972, said Susan Walton, who manages the plumbing department.

The pumps also were "selling very, very well," at Home Depot in Towson, said Fred Galzerano, assistant store manager. He estimated yesterday that the store has sold more than 100 sump and utility pumps since mid-February.

Masonry and waterproofing paint and cement to repair foundation leaks also were in demand, Mr. Galzerano said.

Fred Davis, chief meteorologist at the National Weather Service's BWI regional office, said this week's rain lingered because of a frontal zone that stalled over the East Coast. It finally weakened enough yesterday to be pushed out by a mild high pressure system.

The 3 inches that fell in the most recent storm resulted in a March record at BWI but may not have set one in Baltimore, where the 9.76 inches that fell in March 1983 exceeded the airport total that month by nearly 3 inches. Current city statistics, kept by the U.S. Coast Guard, were not available yesterday afternoon.

The rain left just about every part of Maryland soggy. The exception appeared to be Oriole Park at Camden Yards, where a high-tech drain system makes water vanish in a 75,000-gallon-a-minute hurry.

Groundskeeper Paul Zwaska declared Oriole Park ready for baseball.

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