Fifth-driest October extends Md. drought Conditions 'extreme' from Baltimore area to Patuxent River

November 03, 1998|By Frank D. Roylance | Frank D. Roylance,SUN STAFF

Marylanders who are still watering their lawns and flowers might be happy to take a share of the heavy rains that have flooded parts of Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas in recent weeks.

Last month, barely an inch of rain fell on instruments at Baltimore-Washington International Airport. That made last month the fifth-driest October in Baltimore since record-keeping began in 1871.

Our bone-dry October followed the fifth-driest summer on record in the state. Since July 1, only 4.66 inches of rain has fallen at the airport, far below the average of 14 inches for the four-month period.

The official outlook for this month calls for only a "slightly improved probability" of wetter-than-normal conditions.

Penn State meteorologist Todd Miner said storm systems carrying moisture from the Gulf of Mexico or the Atlantic Ocean have been steered elsewhere by the jet stream.

The few storms that got close to Maryland have been dried up by what Miner described as a combination of converging high-altitude winds and sinking air currents that have created persistently warm and dry conditions in the mid-Atlantic states.

"That system that produced the rain in the Plains is squirting off JTC to [the] east," Miner said. But it is expected to dry out before reaching the coast.

"We do expect there will be a strip of rain across Virginia, and maybe into Southern Maryland [today], but probably south of the Washington, D.C.-Baltimore corridor. Even if you guys are lucky enough to be in the corridor of rain, I wouldn't expect much to fall."

A drought severity index map issued last week by the federal Climate Prediction Center showed "extreme" drought conditions persisting from Baltimore south to the Patuxent River, and in Kent and Queen Anne's counties on the Eastern Shore.

The rest of Maryland remains in moderate to severe drought, with only Garrett County, in far western Maryland, enjoying near-normal rainfall.

In September, the U.S. Department of Agriculture declared drought disasters in nine counties in Southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore. Corn, soybean and tobacco losses there ranged from 30 percent to 65 percent.

The declaration made farmers there, and in seven nearby counties, eligible for low-interest loans to help finance next year's crops.

National Weather Service data show only a tenth of an inch of rain at BWI in the 22 days since Oct. 10. Measurable rain fell on just seven days last month. Only two days produced more than 0.1 of an inch of rainfall. The wettest day was Oct. 8, when 0.68 of an inch fell.

Scarce rainfall in Maryland since June has more than erased a seven-inch surplus of precipitation accumulated during the first half of the year.

The dry weather has slowed the flow of freshwater into the Chesapeake Bay. The October inflow was just 41 percent of normal, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Ground water levels in Maryland are also below average.

Unlike precipitation, temperatures at BWI last month stuck close to long-term norms. The readings averaged 56.2 degrees, less than a half-degree below normal. No temperature records were matched or set. The high temperature for the month was 82 degrees on Oct. 1. The low was 31 degrees on Oct. 31.

Pub Date: 11/03/98

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