Remember the drought?

December 26, 2003

IT MAY NOT be a sign of doom, but it was a record-breaking year for gloom, as measured in rainy days in Baltimore.

What's with the weather?

A persistent pitter-patter all year long, plus the occasional stormy gusts and sodden snow, helped shatter the official yearly precipitation record, set in 1887. And there are still a few days to go.

Precipitation is necessary and refreshing in good measure, but after the 28.2-inch snowstorm in February and the seven weeks of spring with only two days off for good weather, one might have wished to stop counting.

Still, a record is a record, and residents can pride themselves that once again they have been fiercely tested and found hardy. Not to mention having a far better topic for conversation than usual.

Local weather forecasters, who seem to get more face time here than in many other regions, got quite a bit more this year. But they came through, priming us for the biggies well before the skies were due to open. Of course, even they were a little surprised by Tropical Storm Isabel -- not so much the storm itself but the quiet but insistent swell that drenched homes and businesses around the bay.

Still, it hasn't been all bad.

The rains yielded lovely gardens and not so many mosquitoes as expected. It grew harder and harder to recall those pesky dry patches of 2001 and 2002. And in the bread-bakery swelter of last summer, the city logged only two Code Red bad air days, a pleasant change compared with the lung-blistering 16 of the previous year and the region's average for the past decade of 11.

And the future looks bright.

The Old Farmer's Almanac (laugh, but it was right about the snowstorm of '03) predicts winter around here to be "another cold one, but with less snow than last winter." The best chances for snowpiles were in early December (done!) and again in mid-January.

But look out for August, which the almanac is predicting will be the hottest on record.

At least it won't be gloomy.

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