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April showers give area farmers a boost

April 23, 2002|BY MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

The nearly 81/2 inches of rain that have fallen on Washington County so far this year may not have ended the drought, but have helped improve the attitudes of area farmers, Don Schwartz, Washington County agriculture extension agent, said Monday.

"We've actually seen average rainfall both in April and March and this has really had an impact on farmers," Schwartz said.

The recent rains have aided spring planting, he said. "In fact, it's just about perfect right now," Schwartz said. "Too much more rain would make it hard for farmers to get their crops in the ground."

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Once they are in, it will be necessary for the rains to continue to fall throughout the growing season, Schwartz said.

"If we would get about an inch or so a week, that would be as close to normal as we could get," he said. "We're just looking and hoping for an average year."

Greg Keefer's Web site shows that the Hagerstown weather observer has recorded 8.46 inches of rain so far in 2002. The total rainfall in 2001 was 26.54 - the third driest on record since 1898, Keefer's Web site said.

In an average year, 38 inches of rain fall.

Recent rains have also boded well for the Hagerstown Water Department's supply of water for its customers, said Manager Gene Walzl.

"The Potomac River remains our primary source of water with the R.C. Willson plant in Williamsport providing 100 percent of the daily needs now," Walzl said.

The rainfall in Washington County has helped somewhat, but the big impact on river levels comes from storms to the west and south.

"Rains here show a quick rise in the river and then it's gone," Walzl said. "The river reacts more from rains upstream, and there has been more adequate rainfall there too."

The "ace in the hole" is Hagerstown's other water source - the Edgemont Reservoir - and that is being kept as full as possible, Walzl said. "That supply would last several weeks with strict conservation measures."

Currently customers are being asked, but not ordered, to conserve water, Walzl said.

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