Rain brings a bit of relief

7 inches causes floods in Arundel, but much of Md. gets only drizzle

'An awful lot of rain'

Relief is too late to rescue farmers

more rain coming

August 26, 1999|By Rafael Alvarez | Rafael Alvarez,SUN STAFF

The rains came -- in buckets throughout Southern Maryland yesterday and by the thimbleful in other parts of the state -- and though steady and welcome, the drenching was not enough to reverse one of the worst droughts this century.

As farmers and visitors at the Maryland State Fair in Timonium wondered aloud why the clouds didn't open up six weeks ago, the state remained under mandatory water restrictions imposed by Gov. Parris N. Glendening earlier this month.

Seven inches fell in Rivera Beach in Anne Arundel County. St. Mary's County measured over five inches as did the Annapolis area -- four inches of it falling in the state capital between 7 p.m. and 8: 30 p.m. Nearly four inches fell at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, and though accumulations in Baltimore were less than an inch by evening, steady rain continued to fall at midnight.

In Anne Arundel County, roads were flooded throughout the southern part of the county, particularly in Edgewater.

"That's an awful lot of rain," said Calvin Meadows, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Sterling, Va. "But it would have to [continue] and be more widely distributed to make up" for this year's deficit.

To catch up, said Meadows, the state would need normal rainfall and then an additional six inches a month for the rest of the year.

"That's rare," he said, "but who knows?"

Normal precipitation for Maryland is 40.76 inches a year, Meadows said, with only 22.32 inches falling through Tuesday.

Western Maryland received little or no rain from yesterday's slow-moving storm. Carroll, Baltimore and Harford counties were merely sprinkled.

"We only had seven-tenths of an inch but even seven inches would have done nothing," said Melvin E. Baile Jr., who grows corn, soybeans and green beans on 700 acres in Carroll County. "The corn is beyond help -- the yield has already been made -- and maybe the bean pods will be a little larger but their numbers are already determined."

Baile, who said Maryland will likely produce 36 million bushels of corn this year, down from 50 million bushels in bumper years, said farmers have a love-hate relationship with rain, whether there is a drought or not.

"We know it's going to rain one day and we know it's not going to rain when it suits us. It's a double-edged sword," he said. "Rain helps crop yield but prevents you from doing field work. Even in a drought, you're not prepared for a rain -- there's always one more job you could have gotten done outside."

Jim Harp, a 52-year-old farmer near Hagerstown, said his farm won't harvest a single soybean this year.

Only the drought of 1930 was worse, weather officials said.

A second storm was slowly making its way toward Maryland from central Virginia last night and will skirt the Baltimore metro area today. Other rain is coming this way from the Ohio Valley, promising rain and thunderstorms through Saturday.

"It's a welcome relief," said Ron Frawley, general manager of Abner's Sea Side Crab House in Chesapeake Beach, south of Annapolis. "It was a steady downpour all afternoon and people took it without hesitation."

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