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Fall was warmer, wetter than normal

December 20, 1999|By BRENDAN KIRBY

The fall season that ends Wednesday was marked by heat and rain, according to Hagerstown weather data.

Winter officially begins at 2:44 a.m. Wednesday.

The average temperature for September, October and November was 56.8 degrees - more than a full degree above normal, according to Hagerstown weather observer Greg Keefer.

October accounted for much of the warmth. The first freeze on Oct. 28 was followed by Indian summer, with temperatures above 70 degrees the rest of the month.

The warn weather continued into November, which tied November 1902 as the third-warmest November recorded in Hagerstown. The average temperature was 49.5 degrees.

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Keefer wondered whether the warm weather this fall has any long-term significance. He noted that 1998 was the hottest year on record locally.

"It seems like over the last 10 years, it's been incredible. We've had heat records for both summer and winter," he said.

Rainfall was well below normal for October and November.

But September more than compensated. With 8.67 inches of rain, it was the third wettest September ever. Much of that rain came from the remnants of Hurricane Floyd, which devastated parts of North Carolina.

"That was one of the reasons. It was really wet," Keefer said.

The rains were welcomed by local farmers who suffered losses during the summer's severe drought.

"It was actually a growing season. Mother Nature kind of made up a little bit for the other part of the years," said Donald Schwartz, a Washington County agricultural extension agent.

Schwartz said the rain came too late to help summer crops like corn and soybeans, but it helped alfalfa and pastures and provided a good start for small winter grains.

"September was good," he said. "It made a lot of feed."

The unseasonably warm temperature late in the year allowed farm animals to graze much later in the season than normal, Schwartz said.

As a result, farmers did not have to dip into their stored feed as early as they usually do. That was good, because many farmers had to use a lot of that feed during the summer drought, Schwartz said.

The autumn rain did not solve the long-term drought problem, he said.

The U.S. Geological Survey monitoring station near Smithsburg shows a below-average groundwater level. The groundwater level at the Fort Frederick State Park monitoring well is at the low end of the normal range.

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