Wet, cold and a record Weather: This November was the coldest on record, the National Weather Service says, and it's shaping up to be one of the wettest years.

December 03, 1996|By Frank D. Roylance | Frank D. Roylance,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Richard Irwin contributed to this article.

After months of cool weather, November has entered the record books as the coldest in 125 years of record-keeping in Baltimore, the National Weather Service says.

It was also wetter than normal in November -- the 10th month this year with above-normal precipitation.

And if this year's persistent chilly and wet weather seems to foreshadow a bad winter, consider this statistic offered by weather service meteorologist Chris Strong:

Of the 16 coldest Novembers on record, "75 percent were followed by colder-than-normal winters," he said.

Nevertheless, as December begins, the official winter forecast remains relatively benign -- near-normal temperatures and precipitation through February. That outlook is based on historical records, computer models and analysis of the El Nino factors involving ocean patterns in the Pacific.

Strong is optimistic about the months ahead. "I'm kinda banking on it being around normal in terms of snowfall," Strong said. "After last year's record performance [the snowiest January on record], it's pretty obvious we're going to get less than that."

A low pressure system that blew through town ahead of a cold front Sunday and early yesterday dropped 1.37 inches of rain at Baltimore-Washington International Airport through 7 a.m. yesterday. That came on the heels of 0.4 inches Saturday, for a weekend total of 1.77 inches.

The rains brought many streams in the region close to flood stage. The National Weather Service posted flood warnings yesterday for the Susquehanna River below Conowingo Dam in Maryland.

Residents of Port Deposit in Cecil County were warned to expect "minor" flooding around high tide yesterday afternoon and again around 4 a.m. today as the high water moved downstream into the tidal portion of the river.

Sgt. John Blades of the Maryland State Police barracks at North East said engineers at the dam opened 14 flood gates about 3 p.m. yesterday, thus decreasing water pressure on the dam's face.

Blades said another eight gates were expected to be opened late last night and that could cause minor flooding of about a mile of U.S. 222 that runs parallel to the river. He said if Port Deposit was threatened with flooding, the county's Emergency Services Office would give warning to residents.

"The gates will be opened gradually and as needed in order to reduce any possibility of flooding in Port Deposit," Blades said.

He said that the dam has 50 gates and that residents of Port Deposit have grown used to the river overflowing its banks when the gates are opened.

Flood warnings also were issued yesterday for the Conococheague and Seneca creeks in Western Maryland.

However, no flooding had been reported by 8 p.m. yesterday at Port Deposit or in Western Maryland.

The biggest one-day gusher in November was the storm Nov. 8, which dumped 2.65 inches of rain on the airport.

November was the 12th month in the past 13 with normal or below-normal temperatures at BWI. Only June produced readings significantly above normal.

Temperatures for November averaged 40.2 degrees at BWI. That is 6.6 degrees below normal for the month and the coldest on record. It erases the record of 40.9 degrees set 20 years ago, in 1976.

The mercury's extremes for the month spanned 55 degrees. The high was 73 degrees at BWI on the 7th. The low was 18 degrees three weeks later, on the 28th.

Two temperature records were tied or set -- both lows. On the 17th, the low of 20 degrees broke the record of 21 degrees, set in 1933. The 19-degree low on the 16th tied the record for that date, also set in 1933.

Official Baltimore weather data were recorded at a variety of city locations between 1871 and 1908. In 1909 the weather station was moved to the U.S. Customs House. In 1950, the weather service began taking the official readings at BWI, then called Friendship Airport.

The only month in 1996 that has had less than average precipitation was February.

In just over 11 months this year, the airport has already recorded nearly 16 inches more precipitation than falls during the typical full year. That includes Sunday's storm.

If the rain and snow in December are only average, 1996 will stack up as the fourth wettest since record-keeping began in 1871.

Pub Date: 12/03/96

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