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Rain just doesn't add up in Franklin County

September 17, 2002|by STACEY DANZUSO

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

FRANKLIN COUNTY, Pa. - September could prove the driest on record unless serious storm clouds blow in soon.

While forecasters had predicted an inch of rain would drop on the area Sunday, Franklin County missed the boat.

Only .05 of an inch fell in Waynesboro, Pa., while Chambersburg, Pa., fared slightly better with .25 of an inch.

"We sure missed it this time," said Todd Toth, who runs the weather center at Waynesboro High School.

"They called for 1 to 11/2 inches and we came out with 1/4 inch," Chambersburg weather watcher Jerry Ashway said. "It seems like the rain dried up."

Waynesboro has seen just .3 of inch of rain this month and Chambersburg only .4 on an inch.

Normal rainfall for September is 3.36 inches, Toth said.

February set a record rainfall low at 0.31 inches, and September is headed in that direction, he said.

"We are really hurting," Toth said.

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Ashway said lately it seems the promises of rain never materialize.

He said the next chance of rain is Wednesday night into Thursday, but he said not to expect much.

Toth said the region is already about 11 inches behind normal rainfall for the year, and if the National Weather Service's winter projections hold true, there is no end in sight to the drought.

He said the Weather Service is factoring in the El Nino effect this winter, which means warmer and drier conditions than normal.

Officials had been hoping a wet, snowy winter would bolster the region's water supplies and provide a spring thaw, which the area missed out on this year.

The governor declared a drought emergency for Franklin County and much of south-central Pennsylvania in February.

Sporadic rain throughout the spring and summer at times filled local reservoirs, although the groundwater has remained low.

Chambersburg's Long Pine Reservoir was only at 59 percent capacity Monday, 13.4 feet below the spillway. That's down from 5.5 feet below at this time last year, said Bruce McNew, assistant water and sewer superintendent for the borough.

While drought emergency status recommends residents cut water use by 10 percent to 15 percent, McNew said it's tough to tell if the borough is meeting that. Three major water leaks in July skewed numbers, although they have since been repaired.

He said the borough sent out drought information and water conservation tips with utility bills in July, and it's planning a similar mailing soon.

"We have to keep educating the public the drought is not over when we get a little bit of rain," he said.

Waynesboro is seeing consistent reduction in water use, but that hasn't stopped the reservoir from dropping an inch a day, said S. Leiter Pryor, head of public utilities for Waynesboro.

"The rain Sunday had no impact," and the reservoir is still 6-feet 4-inches below spillway, he said.

He said the situation will be extremely serious this spring if the region does not see above average rainfall and heavy snowfall this winter.

In a drought emergency, mandatory water-use restrictions include strict limitations on the watering of lawns, athletic fields, golf courses and the washing of automobiles; not serving water in eating places unless requested by the customer; and closing down of indoor- and outdoor-ornamental fountains, waterfalls, and ornamental pools unless they are needed to sustain aquatic life.

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