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Local farmers hoping for more precipitation in 2002

January 02, 2002

Local farmers hoping for more precipitation in 2002



By TARA REILLY
tarar@herald-mail.com


Farmer Jim Harp didn't hold back when describing the weather for 2001.

"It was terrible," Harp said. "We are way, way, way down in precipitation. The wells are dry, the streams are dry, everybody's dry."

The year 2001 was the third driest on record for Hagerstown, with the area receiving 26.54 inches of precipitation, according to weather observer Greg Keefer's Web site.

Included in the 2001 precipitation total is 17.6 inches of snow from January through March.

It was the first year since 1968 that the area received less than 30 inches of precipitation, the site said. In 1968, 28.93 inches of precipitation fell.

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The year also featured one of the longest dry spells on record, with just .09 inches of rain during a 39-day stretch from Oct. 17 to Nov. 24.

The average precipitation for Hagerstown in October and November is 3.3 inches for each month, according to information provided by The Weather Channel.

July was the third driest July on record with 1.02 inches of rain, while October was the fifth driest October on record with .68 inches of precipitation, Keefer's site said.

Area agriculture officials said Washington County has been in a rain deficit for four of the last five years, and 12 to 24 months of serious rainfall is needed.

Harp, whose crops include corn, wheat, soy and barley on his Paradise Church Road farm near Hagerstown, said the year's lack of moisture had his yields hurting.

"They were less than half a crop," he said.

Boonsboro weather observer Carl Snook said the little precipitation coupled with several days of extreme heat in August was too much for his crops to handle.

"The crops suffered quite a bit," Snook said. "I didn't get hardly anything out of my garden. If it wasn't a drought, it was pretty close."

Hot, humid weather hung over the area at the beginning of August, with temperatures reaching the high 90s, and in some places, topping off at 102 degrees. Heat indeces reached highs of 114 degrees.

Mild temperatures kicked off this winter, staying above freezing much of the time through mid-December.

Harp said the mild temperatures caused trees to bud early.

"I still had lettuce and spinach that fully came up in the garden," Snook said. "That was kind of unusual."

Harp said unless 2002 brings steady precipitation, farmers will again be faced with hardships.

"We need moisture in any form. It doesn't matter what it is," he said. "It has nature all out of balance. Everything's screwed up. It's a mess."

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