Rainstorm settles a dusty interlude

Weather welcome but not enough

June 04, 2007|By Frank D. Roylance | Frank D. Roylance,Sun reporter

It wasn't as much as advertised. And it didn't help everybody. But it was the best rain Maryland's seen in weeks.

Just days after Maryland's dusty farm fields and brown lawns made it to the front page, remnants of the second named storm of the 2007 Atlantic hurricane season brought the state a sip of relief.

Rains from the fringes of what had been Tropical Storm Barry arrived in Baltimore around midmorning, pushing north from Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas.

Beginning as sprinkles, then a steady drizzle, the rains wetted roads, lawns and parched gardens, and chased yard sales into garages.

The National Weather Service had predicted as much as 1 1/2 inches of rain for Baltimore by early this morning as the storm's center moved up the coast.

Nearly that amount - about an inch - had fallen by 8 p.m. last night, but only another tenth of an inch was likely to fall overnight.

Other areas were wetter: The Naval Academy in Annapolis reported 1 1/4 inches and parts of Virginia's Eastern Shore had received more than 2 inches of rain by early afternoon.

There were many, including farmers with parched crops and backyard gardeners with thirsty flower beds, who wanted more.

"It would have been nice, if we got more. Everything really needed it - still needs it," said forecaster Jim Decarufel, at the National Weather Service forecast office in Sterling, Va. "Maybe this will be enough to keep us going till the next storm comes through."

Is there another in view? "No," he said.

That's too bad for farmers such as Lawrence Meeks in Westminster.

"I'd love to see an inch overnight and let it have a chance to really soak into the ground," he said. Meeks has been watching the soil and spring crops dry out on close to 3,000 acres he farms in northern Carroll County and southern Adams County, Pa.

The slow pace of yesterday's storm and temperatures in the 60s were beneficial, he said. "It's the kind [of rain] we need. We just need it a little bit heavier."

With the rain came east winds, gusting to 34 mph at the Thomas Point Light by midafternoon. Would-be Sunday sailors faced gale warnings for Maryland's portion of the Chesapeake Bay, from northern Calvert County to the Potomac River, and small-craft advisories elsewhere on the bay.

"It's wild out there," said Brent Herson, a manager at the Pleasure Cove Marina in Pasadena. "Two of our customers ... went out this morning. We told them to be careful, that there were small-craft advisories out there."

But "they get the itch for it," he said. "It's like, they're paying for the boat and they want to go boating."

They came back soon enough. "An anchor got ripped out of the bow, and the windshield got jarred a little. ... They were kind of, `Yeah, you were right, but we don't want to admit it.'"

The wind also threatened Maryland's Western Shore and the tidal Potomac with minor coastal flooding at high tides. Flood watches were issued for most of the lower Eastern Shore, including the Maryland beaches.

Strong onshore winds were creating moderate rip currents in Ocean City, according to Sgt. Nick Thompson, of the Ocean City Beach Patrol. But the surfline was mostly deserted.

"The water temperatures being so low [56 degrees, according to the Weather Service], there are not many swimmers out there," he said. The sand wasn't so inviting either. "Our weather is pretty much heavy rain and winds at 20 to 30 mph. ... The beach is kinda sparse."

Misty and light at first, the rain failed to keep Fells Point tourists indoors. Most walked around without umbrellas, dodging the growing puddles as best they could.

The rainfall was the heaviest widespread precipitation for Maryland in weeks, providing at least a pause in more than seven weeks of stubbornly dry weather.

This May was the fourth driest in 136 years of recordkeeping for Baltimore, with just 0.94 inches of rain. Dulles International Airport in Virginia saw even less - just 0.34 inches. That was the driest May there since records began in 1962.

By June 1, BWI Marshall Airport was running almost 3 inches behind the average pace of precipitation for the year when Barry showed up.

The storm formed Friday afternoon, the first day of the 2007 hurricane season. Spinning up in the Gulf of Mexico southwest of Florida, it pummeled portions of the state's west coast with 46-mph winds, 3- to 5-foot storm surges and battering waves before crossing the peninsula Saturday and weakening.

Moving up the coastline, its remnants soaked drought-afflicted portions of Florida, Georgia and South Carolina with up to nearly 7 inches of rain in places.

Meanwhile, torrential rains linked to Barry flooded rivers in the Dominican Republic, killing 14 people and driving more than 8,000 from their homes, according to the BBC.

Remnants of Barbara, a tropical storm that formed last week in the eastern Pacific, went ashore over the weekend in Central America and southern Mexico. At least six people died in floods and landslides.

frank.roylance@baltsun.com

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