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It's been too wet to work

April 15, 2004|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

andrews@herald-mail.com

Washington County - The sky has been crying on construction, farming and baseball in the Tri-State area.

C. William Hetzer said he hopes his company, C. William Hetzer Inc. south of Hagerstown, isn't doomed to repeat last year, one of the rainiest in recent history.

According to weather observer Greg Keefer's Web site, 63.91 inches of precipitation fell on Hagerstown last year.

This year, the area has had 12.27 inches - about the same to date as last year - including 1.63 inches Monday and 1.01 inches Tuesday, the Web site says.

The rain killed the Hagerstown Suns' attempts to open their home season Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

Hetzer said his company lost $5 million to $6 million worth of business last year, since 90 percent of its work is outside.

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Hetzer's company is working on a FedEx distribution center off Hopewell Road and is about to start on a runway expansion at Hagerstown Regional Airport, among other projects.

When earth is wet, "You can't compact it," Hetzer said. "You're just stopped."

It's been too dangerous for Before and After, a Hagerstown home improvement business, to climb up to fix leaking roofs, receptionist Kendra Pheil said.

The company is still busy outside, though, with windows, siding and roofing estimates, Pheil said.

Water helps plants grow, but not a waterfall.

"If you're a fish farmer, it's doing you pretty good," joked Jeff Semler, an extension educator for the University of Maryland Cooperative Extension in Washington County.

But seriously...

"The ground is just so moist, no one can get on it to do any planting or growing," Semler said.

The soil temperature, which is about 50 to 52 degrees, needs to rise eight to 10 degrees, he said.

Semler said spring grasses and vegetable crops, such as peas, potatoes and corn, are affected. "Right now, we're getting to the point - April 15 - where a lot of corn goes in the ground," he said.

That will have to be pushed back. Still, "we're not ready to panic," Semler said.

He was right about fish and rain.

"It's certainly improved the water level," said Wade Moore, the manager of the Albert M. Powell State Fish Hatchery east of Hagerstown. "We were already a little behind."

The main question is how the weather will affect local ponds and streams after they're restocked with trout, he said. For example, Beaver Creek opens for fishing Saturday.

If the water gets too high, it can be harmful. Last August, a toxin in floodwaters killed about 3,000 fish at the hatchery, Moore said. High water carried away other fish, but most were recovered.

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