One storm makes 2013 wettest summer on record

mowen@ledger-enquirer.comSeptember 1, 2013 

It's official. This summer, as meteorologists define it, was the wettest since people started keeping official records back in 1948.

The city had 7.32 inches of rain in June, 8.82 in July and 8.59 in August, for a total of 24.72, which edged out the previous record of 24.58 in 2005, said WRBL Chief Meteorologist Bob Jeswald.

But there could be an asterisk next to the record, Jeswald says. But for one anomalous day in August, the month just past would have been average and the summer would not have approached record-breaking status.

On that day, Aug. 14, a storm cell dumped about 5.06 inches of rain on Columbus, but not on all of Columbus, Jeswald said. The worst of that storm was isolated over the Columbus Municipal Airport, where

the National Weather Service's rain gauge is located.

Had that cell been isolated away from the airport, August would have been around its normal average of about 3.5 inches and 2005 would still be the record-holder, Jeswald said.

"It was a very mild, wet summer, but to make it the wettest ever, which is what it turned out to be, what really sent us over the top was that day it rained five inches in an hour and a half," Jeswald said. "Think about it. If that wasn't there, we would have been average for August."

Still, anomalies aside, it was a very wet summer, with all the attendant boons and banes they bring.

City Public Works Director Pat Biegler said the rain has kept her department hopping responding to calls for downed trees, clogged drains and the ensuing flooding.

"It has placed a significant burden on the department," Biegler said. "Mostly it's affected our ability to deliver services, mostly in grass cutting. We've had so many days where we couldn't cut grass. We've had to keep going as long and hard as we can."

The increase in downed trees has put a strain on the department, too, Biegler said.

"That's kept the urban forestry people cutting up and dealing with those trees instead of being proactive," Biegler said. "If we have an event and get 20 calls for downed trees, there are probably 30 or 40 downed trees that we have to deal with. That doesn't get cleaned up in one day."

Biegler said her department has become more proactive in maintaining storm drains, inspecting them individually and regularly and clearing them out if needed, which has greatly reduced the number of flooding complaints they receive.

"We've seen enough of an improvement that the guys out in the field are saying, 'Wow. I can't believe this.' Instead of having a couple of hundred people calling, we're having 15 or 20, and we can respond to them promptly and deal with the problems easier."

The rain has also produced a bumper crop of mosquitoes, according to Ed Saidla, district program manager for the Columbus Department of Public Health. The health department is tasked with controlling mosquito population by spraying problem areas.

The amount of rainfall not only provides water for mosquitoes to breed in, but the amount that fell this summer caused some normally problem areas to be flushed clean and others that aren't a problem to become hatcheries, Saidla said.

The department regularly sprays problem areas with larvicide to prevent the mosquitoes from hatching.

If an area has become badly infested with adult mosquitoes, the department will fog the area with a spray that kills the adults, but it's more effective to attack the insects in the larvae stage, he said.

Saidla said if residents have a mosquito problem, they can call the department at 706-321-6170 and a crew will come out and assess the problem.

The wet summer hasn't been all bad news, of course, especially for farmers. State Agriculture Commissioner Gary W. Black said in July, when it was apparent the state was in the middle of a very wet season, that the rainfall had been "awesome" for farmers.

Not only does the extra rain help the crops, but it saves the farmers the expense of irrigating fields and boosts grass growth for livestock feed.

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