Roy Exum: Drought To Record Rain? 3 Days

Monday, June 10, 2019 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

Over the last 50 years I have become a studious observer of rain and to say this year isn’t already one for the ages is an understatement. It was Charles Dudley Warner, a great pal of Mark Twain, who actually observed, “Everybody talks about the weather but can’t do a thing about it.”

On that same scale, I found that long ago it was a waste of time for me to fret over anything I can’t do anything about and that was when climate warming, Internet inventor Albert Gore, female tree huggers who refuse to shave their legs, cruel strip-mine operators, bananas on the verge of extinction, or whether Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, our newest Democratic Socialist whiz-bang, is indeed Fidel Castro’s granddaughter.

Please, I neither have time nor patience for such but the rain is far-far different. Ever since I had a brush or two with helping my grandfather tend to his farm in Sale Creek, I’ve prayed harder for a late-afternoon frog-choker than I have for a wife. Rain makes things grow, which is why we ought to look at the storms as proof they make us into better beings. Before I could drive, I knew that June rains were the only way we’d get two ‘cuts’ off a hay field or a profit in late fall with our corn and soy beans.

But now what is unfolding before our very eyes is without precedent. Even us older folks are staggered and we’re of age to realize that one hour on an open-air John Deere with a Bush-Hog will outdo a psychiatrist 2-to-one in any of the four seasons. Honestly, I stand in awe. I mean, look at this:

On Monday just one week ago the city of Atlanta was struggling with a moderate drought, as was a wide swath of middle and southern Georgia after a week of record-setting heat for late May -- temperatures in the mid 90s where not a drop had fallen in at least 14 days.  In the past two weeks, the Georgia capital and every village south of it in the state had received no measurable precipitation, but suddenly that all changed.

The experts at AccuWeather have confirmed that this weekend alone “in Atlanta nearly all of the rain that would typically fall each June (3.95 inches) poured down on Saturday. The 3.90 inches measured in just one day shattered the previous rainfall record for June 8, which was 1.45 inches all the way back from 1950.”

Believe it or not, TVA has carefully monitored rainfall at the Chickamauga Dam and, since Wednesday, we have been blessed – this as flooding havoc surrounds the Chattanooga area -- with just 1.47 inches in total rainfall through Saturday midnight. Mind you, TVA also has total respect for water management’s first and foremost rule: It flows downhill, and our surrounding watershed is far worse than soggy.

How bad could it be? A few locations in western North Carolina have recorded more than a foot of rain in the past three days. This includes 13.64 inches near Brookford and 13.57 inches east of Boone, North Carolina. At Appalachian State (Boone) the university had to close campus buildings because there was no human way to control the overwhelming flash flooding.

From ABC News: On Friday, over 6 inches of rain was reported near Richmond, Virginia, there was nearly 5 inches of rain reported just outside of Nashville and over 3.5 inches of rain fell in West Virginia. Torrential rain, including rainfall rates of 3 inches per hour, caused flash flooding in North Carolina, especially between Charlotte and Greensboro. Flash flooding was reported on Interstate 40, making sections barely passable.

Ironically, the National Weather Service announced just last week that the continental United States recorded its wettest 12-month period in recorded history this year, historic flooding and record-shattering rainfall amounts landed May 2019 as the second-wettest month in United States history.

“Precipitation across the contiguous U.S. that accumulated over the June 2018 to May 2019 12-month period shattered the previous record for any 12-month period with 37.68 inches, 7.73 inches above average.

"The previous June-May record was 35.47 inches and occurred from June 1982 to May 1983. The previous all-time 12-month record was 36.20 inches and occurred from May 2018 to April 2019," according to the report.

Equally amazing is the velocity of the rain. For instance, in Athens, Ga., there was one hour on Saturday where 1.59 inches of rain fell from noon to 1 p.m. EDT but – get this -- nearly an inch of that falling in just 20 minutes. Want one better?  In two hours on Saturday, this just north of Raleigh, 4.62 inches were recorded.

* * *

The threat of the swollen Arkansas River made a breach of the main levee in Conway imminent but just as the last were being evacuated, Bobby Kelly, the community communications director, put everyone at ease: Water was still standing on a part of the levee that had been washed away, but Bob sent the encouraging call. He said the levee was "still holding strong like a hair on a biscuit, y'all,

* * *

“Nathan Spicer, emergency management specialist in Little Rock — where the river is expected to crest at 28 feet on Monday — told the city board the rain will prolong the flood's effects. “This flood event could last for two, three weeks, maybe a month," Spicer said, according to a report by the Arkansas Democrat Gazette.

* * *

“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Detroit said Lake Ontario rose an additional 18 inches last month alone, putting it 24 inches higher than it was at the same time last year. Lake Michigan-Huron rose 9 inches, Erie rose 6 inches and Superior rose 5 inches. Those lakes were all 9 to 13 inches higher than a year ago, and each of the Great Lakes was between 1 to 6 inches higher than ever recorded for the month of May.” – The Weather Channel.

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