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Forecaster says spring should bring more rain

March 19, 2002|BY SCOTT BUTKI

Spring, which begins Wednesday, should bring with more precipitation to Washington County than winter has, a National Weather Service meteorologist said Monday.

About 5.9 inches of precipitation have fallen in the Hagerstown area since December, according to local weather observer Greg Keefer.

Winter officially began Dec. 21.

This spring Washington County residents can expect about 3 inches to 4 inches of rain to fall each month, meteorologist Dewey Walston said. That would be about the normal rainfall level for spring in Maryland, he said.

Temperatures also are expected to be normal this spring, with highs hovering around the 40s in March, the 50s in April and the mid-60s in May, Walston said.

Historically, about 7.84 inches of precipitation has fallen in Hagerstown over the winter months, Keefer said on his Web site.

With .20 inches, February 2002 was the driest February on record, according to Keefer's Web site, which lists data going back to 1898.

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The area had 1.82 inches of rain in December and 2.32 inches in January, Keefer reported.

So far this month, 1.56 inches of precipitation have fallen, including more than .30 inches Monday and .27 inches Sunday, Keefer's Web site notes.

This winter has been the second warmest in about 100 years, Keefer says on the site.

The average temperature this winter was 38.9 degrees Fahrenheit, his Web site says.

The warmest winter was that of 1931, when the average temperature was 40.2 degrees, he said.

Historically, the average winter temperature in Hagerstown was 32.1, he said.

The mild temperatures this winter benefited farmers in one respect, Washington County Agriculture Extension Agent Don Schwartz said.

When it is cold, animals need up to 30 percent more feed, but farmers had less feed stored this year because of the dry summer of 2001, he said. The milder temperatures meant that for many, the lesser amounts of stored feed was sufficient.

The low precipitation over the winter has resulted in less moisture for crops, which concerns farmers as they prepare for spring planting, Schwartz said.

If soaking rain does not fall this spring, there is the potential for the spring to be a bad one for farmers, he said.

If Walston's prediction of 3 inches to 4 inches of rain a month is on the mark, then the crops probably will turn out fine, Schwartz said.

Even soaking rain won't stop the drought problems, he said. It will take up to two years of normal levels of precipitation to bring the groundwater back up to normal levels, said Schwartz, who is serving as Washington County drought coordinator for the Maryland Department of the Environment.

Washington County is on a drought watch.

The Washington County Board of Commissioners have asked all Washington County residents to voluntarily conserve water due to the drought.

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