Dry Summer Means Tri-state Region’s Rainfall Causes Little Flooding

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
1 November 2012
By Rick Wills

The huge storm that ravaged much of the Jersey Shore and crippled New York City for days was mostly kind to the tri-state region, where a dry summer left reservoirs lower than normal.

The week’s rain raised low rivers and soaked dry ground and forests, but there’s been relatively little of the flooding many expected.

“In this area, it was a pretty dispersed rainfall, and it brought water levels up in a number of our reservoirs. It’s much-needed rain,” said Jeff Hawk, a spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers in Pittsburgh.

The effect of the rainfall was evident most dramatically in Youghiogheny River Lake, a flood-control reservoir in Fayette County and western Maryland, where the reservoir was 25 feet below the winter pool. Hawk said the precipitation could raise the water level by 10 feet or so.

Five other reservoirs connected to the Pittsburgh region had significantly low water. The rain raised the Berlin, Kirwin, Mosquito and Creek Lake reservoirs — all in northeast Ohio — and the Shenango Reservoir, which straddles Mercer County and Ohio. All feed into the Beaver River, an Ohio River tributary.

“What caused our weather (Hurricane Sandy) was unusual. The weather itself was not particularly extreme,” said Lee Hendricks, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Moon.

From Saturday through Thursday afternoon, 4.19 inches of rain fell at the weather service’s offices. October rainfall at Pittsburgh International Airport was 4.44 inches, or 2.15 inches above normal.

The highest 24-hour rainfall for Pittsburgh was on Sept. 17, 2004, when the remnants of Hurricane Ivan dumped 5.95 inches of rain, causing widespread flooding.

Tuesday’s total of 1.72 inches was a record for Oct. 30, breaking the mark of 1.19 inches set in 1973.

Rainfall Monday night through Tuesday night was the week’s heaviest, although totals varied widely across the region. From 6 p.m. Monday to 6 p.m. Tuesday, Connellsville received 4.02 inches of rain while Tionesta, Forest County, got 1.31 inches. In Farmington, Fayette County, 11.8 inches of snow followed the rain.

Yet there was no major flooding in Western Pennsylvania. In Downtown Pittsburgh, the Ohio River crested at 18.4 feet, high enough to close the Mon Wharf parking lot for part of the week, but below the 22 feet at which the 10th Street Bypass floods and the 25 feet at which the Point floods.

“July and August were very dry months. The ground and the rivers were able to take in a lot of this rain,” Hendricks said.

To many, what’s more notable than rainfall is the lack of sun, which last shone in Pittsburgh on Oct. 25. The sun might shine briefly on Saturday, but the weather service expects cloudy skies through Wednesday.

“The drab weather might have a mild effect on most people’s mood. A smaller number of people have seasonal affective disorder, which can be treated with light therapy,” said Anthony Mannarino, a clinical psychologist and director of the Center for Traumatic Stress in Children and Adolescents at Allegheny General Hospital in the North Side.

Rick Wills is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7944 or at rwills@tribweb.com.