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Dry days: Lack of rainfall leaves many concerned in Lycoming County

Persistent dry conditions this summer have certainly taken its toll on countless lawns, leaving them brown and crackling like shredded wheat.

“In July and August, one’s grass normally gets brown, but not for this long. Normally, you will get a rain that will come in every week or so,” according to Michael Dangelo, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in State College.

That certainly is not happening this year, he said.

“The rainfall for Lycoming County is about 4.5 inches below normal for the last 60 days,” Dangelo said this week. “The county has received only about 60 percent of rainfall that it normally receives this time of year,” he added. The county received only 2.11 inches of rain in July alone, compared to 6.99 inches in July 2021; 6.54 inches in July 2019 and nearly a foot of rain in July 2018, he said.

However, July 2020 was actually drier than last month with 1.86 inches of rain, Dangelo said. “You can get a wet year then you can get a couple of dry years. That’s what makes averages,” he said.

“My grass looks like it’s just burned off,” a Loyalsock Township resident said this week.

A Clinton County resident of Gallagher Township said that up until this week, his lawn was very brown.

“We’ve lived on top of a mountain for 18 years, and my wife and I never remember a summer where our grass has been so brown for so long. Our lawn is now green thanks to thunderstorms we had in the last three to four days,” he said.

The 11.99 inches of rain that fell in July 2018 made that month the wettest July on record since the weather service first began keeping data in 1895, Dangelo said. ‘During July of that year, there were many days when the county received over an inch of rain. There were four straight days that month that the county received an inch or more of rain, including July 23 when 2.5 inches of rain fell,” he said.

Despite the very dry conditions last month, there were nearly two dozen other summers when July was drier than this year, Dangelo said. “The driest July on record was in 1909 when only .75 inches of rain fell in the county,” he said.

The current dry conditions have raised concerns for at least one Old Lycoming Township resident who depends on a private well for his family’s water supply and is worried about how much water remains on his property. Recently he brought his laundry to a laundromat, saying he and his wife were trying to conserve their water use until more rain falls.

So far this year, the county has received 21.52 inches of rain, the lowest since 2016 when 19.11 inches of rain fell in the first 32 weeks of the year, Dangelo said.

The rainfall for the same period for the following years were: 2021 with 23.75 inches; 2020 with 24.60 inches; 2019 with 33.95 inches; 2018 with 41.26 inches and 2017 with 34.49 inches.

“Lycoming County is in the lowest category of a drought that there is. It is abnormally dry, which is a Level 0, compared to both Potter and Tioga counties that are in Level 1 with moderate drought conditions,” Dangelo explained.

Michael Miller, executive director for the Williamsport Municipal Water Authority, said there is more than enough water to serve the authority’s 51,000 customers. “We’re in good shape. We’re fine,” he said Wednesday.

Dangelo said the dry situation here is very mild compared to large swaths of the country that are coping with very critical drought conditions. “Our troubles in northern Pennsylvania are nothing like what they are experiencing from Texas, through New Mexico and parts of California, Nevada and Utah. Much of that area is at Level 4, which is exceptional drought conditions,” he said.

When can we expect a good, steady, lasting rain? Dangelo said that is really hard to predict.

“While there is a chance for slightly-above precipitation in the next eight to 14 days, I can’t tell you if it will be enough to take the region out of this dry spell, and the biggest reason for that is that most of our rain in the summer comes from thunderstorms,” he said.

“Right now, the thunderstorms are on a too small a scale to be confident in a forecast that is two weeks away. You could get a good cluster of thunderstorms or a single one. It could vary widely. That’s why I can’t tell you with any certainty that it will be enough to make up the (4.5 inch) deficit in the rainfall,” Dangelo explained.

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