Bountiful rainfall brings joy, headaches

wcrenshaw@macon.comJune 20, 2013 

What a difference a year makes.

Steady rainfall this spring has Middle Georgia looking greener than it has in a while, especially on the first day of summer.

Middle Georgia Regional Airport has registered 37 inches of rainfall this year, about 16 inches above normal. Although May was somewhat dry, it has generally been raining most of the year.

“It’s something we haven’t seen in several years,” said Bryan McElvany, Bleckley County’s agriculture agent.

For now, the 2012 drought -- the most recent in the midstate -- seems like a distant memory. This year’s rain totals are nearly three times the amount Middle Georgia had received at this point last year, and the midstate could be headed for one of its wettest years on record.

There’s good and bad news in it for farmers. While the rain is welcome -- and has meant far less usage of costly irrigators -- it also causes problems.

The rain has produced a good hay crop, for example, but it has been difficult to harvest. Once hay is cut, it has to be cured for a couple of days before baling, so farmers need about three days of dry weather, which has been hard to come by. Harvesting of the wheat crop has also been delayed by rain.

“There’s pros and cons to getting rain,” McElvany said. “If farmers had their choice, it would rain an inch on Saturday then be nice and sunny the rest of the week.”

David Stooksbury, a University of Georgia climatologist, said Macon received 9.5 inches of rain in the past 30 days, compared to a typical total of 3.57 inches over the same period. In the past year, Macon has gotten 55.7 inches, 10 inches above normal.

Much of the northern part of the state has seen similar rainfall patterns.

“Moisturewise, this is the best shape we have been in several years,” Stooksbury said.

The moisture in the ground is especially important, he said, because the evaporation of it helps generate thundershowers. In recent years, there hasn’t been enough moisture for showers.

The rainfall has been keeping lawn care crews busy too.

“I’ve never in my life known it to rain this much in June,” said Danny Bryant, owner of All Seasons Lawncare in Bibb County.

While the rain might seem good for the lawn care business, it also brings challenges. It has been raining so much that it’s difficult to stay on schedule, he said, and he has even had a crew cutting while it was raining.

And the grass is growing so fast it takes longer to cut. Mowers may have to go back over an area two or three times to get it all cut.

The rain is also pinching water utilities. Montie Walters, utility director for the city of Warner Robins, said water usage is down about 10 percent this year through May. When the June figures are in, it could be down even more.

“People turn those sprinklers off and don’t use as much water,” he said. “There’s no doubt it affects our bottom line.”

While it means a reduction in revenue, he said he isn’t too concerned about it creating a financial imbalance in the department because operation costs are decreased, and he figured that would about offset the revenue loss.

Stooksbury said it’s hard to predict whether the rain will continue through the summer, but he is cautiously optimistic.

“Nothing is guaranteed in weather,” he said. “But the fact we do have moisture in the soils, that quite often was the missing ingredient.”

To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.

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