Rainfall below average but ample enough

Area streams are flowing above the normal rate despite year-to-date rainfall averaging 3.02 inches below normal in Lycoming County, according to the National Weather Service in State College.

“We’re running about 10 percent below normal but a deficit like that can be made up in three hours if we get hit with a thunderstorm,” Barry Lambert, a National Weather Service meteorologist, said.

The normal rainfall value for the period Jan. 1 to July 29 is 22.88 inches, while total year-to-date precipitation only totaled 19.86 inches, Lambert said.

“Compared with last year, we’re right on the nose – 19.86 inches this year and 19.63 inches last year,” Lambert said.

The slight deficit does not constitute a drought, according to the National Weather Service.

“We’re just a little below normal – drought is a whole different thing,” National Weather Service meteorologist John LaCort said.

Drought determination involves not only rainfall but also groundwater and stream flow conditions, LaCort said.

“We’ve had no notices from Harrisburg of any kind of drought watch or warning,” Colleen Connolly, a spokeswoman for the Northeast Regional office of the state Department of Environmental Protection, said.

The below-average rainfall has been ample enough to keep grass – and weeds – growing, according to Tebbs Brothers Landscaping Secretary Beth Miller.

“Usually this time of year our mowing crews have slowed down but this year they have been able to mow on a weekly basis,” Miller said.

The weather has kept the mid-summer grass from going dormant and created especially favorable conditions for mowers, who rely on their summer earnings to get them through the winter, Miller said.

While the summer has been fairly typical weather-wise, the area experienced a stretch of heat and humidity a few weeks ago, according to Lambert.

“The hot spell’s persistence was a little unusual. We don’t usually have heat and humidity for five or six days in a row like that, and without much wind to give relief,” Lambert said.

The piercing sun and sweltering humidity can be an inconvenience to those who work outdoors, Miller said.

“Two weeks ago it was pretty hot and the crews didn’t like that. They prefer weather like it has been this week,” Miller said.

Despite the bouts of heat and intermittent rain, no temperature or rainfall records – high or low – have been broken since April 9, when Williamsport had a record-high 81 degrees, tying an old record set in 1991, according to the National Weather Service.

Although the beginning of August often heralds the “dog days of summer,” the climate outlook for next seven to 10 days is relatively mild. A deep layer atmospheric flow coming from the northwest will keep temperatures a few to several degrees below normal on average, according to Lambert.

” ‘On average’ are the key words because the temperature could poke up a few degrees above normal as the wind develops from the south and brings some warm and moist air ahead of each front,” Lambert said.

Such a temperature spike most likely is to take place next Wednesday.

“Wednesday is the only day above normal for the next seven days at 86 degrees, two degrees above normal for Williamsport. The rest is upper-70s to low 80s,” Lambert said.

The climate outlook for the remainder of the summer is one of “equal chances,” according to LaCorte.