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Area's wet weather is affecting farmers

May 29, 2003|BY JESSICA DAVIS

jessicad@herald-mail.com

While this month's seemingly continual rain has meant fewer picnics and poolside lounging to most area residents, local farmers and gardeners are feeling the consequences in a different way, according to area weather observers and farming specialists.

Washington County Extension Agent Don Schwartz labeled the weather "extremely inconvenient," but said it was too soon to know if it will damage area crops.

Farmers face the problem of adjusting to the change from years of drought to the wettest growing season in 30 years, he said.

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But "no one wants to turn off the spigot," Schwartz said. Of his 18 years as an extension agent, 12 summers were considered to be drought situations, he said.

Rain can mean a later harvest, but lack of sunshine and cool temperatures also are problems for farmers. How much of a problem will be more clear next month, Schwartz said.

This year's average temperature for May is 58.2 degrees, down from the normal May average of 62 degrees.

Area gardeners are a bit hesitant this season because of the excessive rain this month, said Jon Snavely, owner of Snavely's Garden Corner in Hagerstown.

Sales are not what they usually are for this time of year, according to Snavely, but he said he has noticed that customers are coming to the store, cautiously sheltered under umbrellas as they look at the plants outside.

"They know they have to do it sooner or later and the weather doesn't show any signs of letting up," he said.

Snavely said there could be a silver lining to the May clouds. Because sales are down for April and May, it might mean that the sales season could extend into June, he said.

With June on the way, May is on track to become one of the wettest Mays on record in Hagerstown, according to the National Weather Service and statistics from local weather observer Greg Keefer.

According to Keefer's Web site, i4weather.net, the total precipitation for May so far in Hagerstown is 7.43 inches, nearly twice the amount of May 2002 when 3.78 inches were recorded. The record was set in May 1989 when 8.09 inches fell on the region, according to the Web site.

Average rainfall for May is 3.87 inches, according to the Web site. A total of 21.67 inches of precipitation has fallen so far this year, according to the Web site.

Local weather information from the National Weather Service shows that 21 days in May had at least 0.01 inches of precipitation and 14 days had 0.1 inches or more. The average for May in Hagerstown is 11 days with rainfall of 0.01 inches or more.

The National Weather Service forecasts a mostly cloudy week with a chance of rain or thunderstorms through Sunday and highs in the mid- to upper 70s.

Keefer's site said there was .02 inches of rain Wednesday.

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