Months of rain made 2013 the sixth wettest on record

tchitwood@ledger-enquirer.comJanuary 1, 2014 

Roads became rivers; trails turned into creeks; puddles pooled into lakes.

What drought had dried up, the rains of 2013 drowned.

The year ended much like it began: In December alone, Columbus got almost 9 inches of rainfall, recording 8.87 inches, 211 percent more than the average 4.2. The southern end of the Chattahoochee RiverWalk was swamped. Hikers following the eastern end of the Pine Mountain Trail, a stretch some call "the waterfall trail," found that name literally true: The route was saturated, the creek beside it swollen to a torrent.

Here in the city, construction projects repeatedly were delayed as sites turned to mud and workers waited for the ground to dry. Outdoor events were canceled or postponed as organizers nervously eyed the forecast. For days, the forecast seemed the same: Rain, rain, rain.

With one exception: For three months, September through November, the skies cleared and the ground dried. Columbus had only 1.17 inches of rain in September, only .45 of an inch in October, and just 1.79 inches in November, according to the National Weather Service.

In three nonconsecutive months, the city's rainfall totals fell below average: 3.22 inches instead of the average 3.85 in January; 3.34 inches instead of the normal 5.46 in March; 2.86 inches instead of 3.19 in May. April's total was about average: 3.72 inches, a touch more than the usual 3.55.

But the other months brought gully-washers: 12.47 inches in February; 7.32 inches in June; 8.81 inches in July; 8.63 inches in August.

Columbus finished the year with a total 62.65 inches of rain, the most it got since 80.2 inches in 2009.

According to WRBL meteorologists, 2013 was Columbus' sixth wettest year on record, the record officially dating back to 1948.

The year 2009 still tops that chart. The rankings below that: 73.22 inches in 1964; 69.93 inches in 1966; 64.47 inches in 1971; 63.56 inches in 1975.

Though 2013 seemed like the year of trees toppling off their roots from soaked ground, its rainfall total wasn't much more than the two years ranking below it: 62.51 inches in 2005, and 62.48 inches in 1948.

It may have seemed more impressive because the three previous years were so dry: Columbus averages 46.75 inches of rain annually, according to the weather service. In 2010, it had 37.26 inches; in 2011, 39.74; in 2012, 35.21 inches.

The overall trend has turned toward warmer, drier years, which makes the exceptions stand out.

"Certainly if you look back 20 years, the trend has been toward drier, around here," said WRBL meteorologist Kurt Schmitz. "I suspect it probably will be going back to some drier years in the future again. This year is an exception, and it's a good thing we had it, because it would not have been good to have another dry year this year."

Today the rain is expected to return, and then overnight temperatures are to plummet below freezing -- an increasingly rare blast of winter weather here in the Deep South.

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