Wet and rainy summer is one to remember

  • Harvey Sawyer, owner of Jaffrey Airfield Silver Ranch, had what he called an ocean at the end of his taxiway. Photo by Harvey Sawyer—

  • Harvey Sawyer, owner of Jaffrey Airfield Silver Ranch, had what he called an ocean at the end of his taxiway. Photo by Harvey Sawyer—

  • A warning sign at the lower portion of MacDowell Dam in Peterborough. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • A warning sign at the lower portion of MacDowell Dam in Peterborough. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Farming at Tenney Farm in Antrim, where the summer's wet weather put some crops underwater to rot. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Farming at Tenney Farm in Antrim, where the summer's wet weather put some crops underwater to rot. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Farming at Tenney Farm in Antrim, where the summer's wet weather put some crops underwater to rot. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Farming at Tenney Farm in Antrim, where the summer's wet weather put some crops underwater to rot. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 9/27/2021 2:58:23 PM

It is no secret that the month of July was wet – historically wet.

According to Sarah Jamison, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Gray, Maine, the rain recorded in July of 2021 resulted in the highest total amount of precipitation for any July in New Hampshire history since statistics were recorded. It was also the four highest monthly precipitation for any of the 12 months.

Harvey Sawyer, who records precipitation amounts for the National Weather Service at his Jaffrey Airfield Silver Ranch, said a total of 18.49 inches was recorded for the month of July.

To put that into context, a total of 17.74 inches fell the previous three Julys combined. From January through June this year, a total of 20.94 inches was recorded.

In July of 2021, a measurable amount of precipitation fell on 23 out of the month’s 31 days. A 24 hour high of 3.97 inches was recorded on the evening of July 18, following 2.95 inches measured the previous evening. More than an inch was collected over six different 24 hour periods, including three that surpassed 2.2 inches.

The results led to road washouts, raging streams and rivers and what Sawyer described as a four-acre lake at the far end of his taxiway that was four feet deep he estimated.

“As long as I’ve been around, I’ve never seen so much rain at one time,” Sawyer said. “It almost came up over the runway.”

It took two days “before it got down to where earth was visible,” Sawyer said.

“We could have run a motorboat around it pretty easily,” Sawyer added.

There was a little reprieve in August, as only 5.21 inches was recorded. After the heavy rain that fell in the region on Friday, 7.69 inches have fallen in September already, pushing the year’s total to 52.33 inches through Saturday evening.

So what does all this added precipitation mean?

Jamison said there are a number of factors that go into a rainy stretch like the one seen in Southern New Hampshire since the beginning of July.

Jamison said that pattern shifts resulting in what she called an atmospheric river led to this area of the state to see 300 percent above normal rainfall in July. There were also a few hurricane and tropical storm remnants that contributed to the totals. But in the northern part of the state, the region remained in moderate drought.

“I think in the area of Southern New Hampshire, it was just the way Mother Nature was turning out storms this year,” Jamison said. “It was very localized.”

Last summer, Southern New Hampshire was in extreme drought and most would have welcomed any amount of rain. This year though, the hope was for more sunshine and less downpours.

“It’s what we say in weather, be careful for what you wish for,” Jamison said.

While it may be hard to remember what the weather was like before all the rain began to fall, Jamison said the months of April and May, and part of June were extremely dry and the state was heading toward another summer drought.

She said the continuous rain helped replenish the groundwater levels, something that was of deep concern heading into the summer.

“That’s shown some great improvement,” Jamison said. “You’re going into fall in a better position for next year.”

Chris Connolly, owner of Connolly Brothers Dairy Farm in Temple, said the short story is that “we went from one extreme to another.” 2020 was hot and extremely dry and this year was “monsoon season.”

The farm grows its own hay to feed their livestock and all the rain really helped.

“The grass grew very well this year, much better than it has the last few,” Connolly said. The downside was when harvest time rolled around as Connolly called the process difficult.

When it comes to those large marshmallow-looking bales you see in fields scattered around the region during the summer months, Connolly said that production wasn’t really affected. That hay requires only a day of waiting after being cut before being wrapped in plastic because it goes in wet and ferments inside.

But when it was time to harvest the dry hay that’s where Connolly said they ran into delays. That hay requires about four days to dry out before it can be baled and there just wasn’t enough time between storms.

The harvest season typically runs from mid-June to the end of July. Connolly said they just finished it last week and it means the hay won’t have the same amount of nutritional value because it wasn’t cut at the optimum time. Connolly said they may have to supplement with purchased hay to feed the animals this winter in order to give them the necessary diet they need. They already had to use other hay to help feed since it was cut so late.

“When you get into September, half of it’s dead,” he said. “And the nutritional value is down.”

Connolly said there have been summers where it has been quite rainy “but I don’t think it lasted as long.”

“And it wasn’t quite to this extreme,” he said. “There was just some large volumes of water coming down and that grass didn’t have a chance to really dry out.”

He said a number of spots in his fields were damaged due to running the machinery on saturated soil that “it’s probably going to take a month of repairs,” this fall.

“It keeps it interesting,” Connolly said. “There’s never a dull moment.”

For Tenney Farm in Antrim, the rain had a huge impact on crop production. It led to a down year in pumpkin production, as many rotted due to being under water or sitting in saturated soil. Floods of the Contoocook River, flattened and washed away corn fields. After a banner year in 2020, 2021 turned into one that owner Crista Salamy would like to forget.

Seth MacLean, Public Works Director for the town of Peterborough, said in addition to the typical seasonal work being delayed due to the rain, the town experienced costly damages to public infrastructure in numerous sections of town.

“Damages from the two heaviest rain events in July totaled over $200k, primarily driven by the costs to rebuild and reinforce a significant portion of Old Town Farm Road,” MacLean said in an email. Damages were also addressed on Old Jaffrey Road, Lobacki Drive, Windy Row, Sand Hill Road, Old Street Road, and Prospect Street.

Since the rebuild of Union Street years ago, MacLean said, the town has consistently planned for heavy rain events and their impact on public infrastructure, health, and safety.

“This includes upsizing culverts and pipes to handle increased stormwater, and engaging and working with civil engineers to design public infrastructure with an aim towards increased stormwater resiliency,” he said. In 2021, the town included this strategy in its latest iteration of the Peterborough Hazard Mitigation plan, MacLean said, which was developed with members of the public, Peterborough Town staff, and Homeland Security & Emergency Management.

MacLean said his department did an “outstanding job” working to correct the issues as quickly as possible, but inevitably some seasonal work had to be rescheduled or pushed to the fall.

“The largest impact was this year’s seasonal paving schedule, which was completed about a week ago even though some punch-list items still remain,” he said.

Unpredictable and damaging weather has a major impact on the ability to plan and execute work, MacLean said.

“Our construction window is relatively short here in New England, so when we lose large periods of time responding to damages, this does consequently impact all of our work including planning and budgeting for the future,” he said.

Steve Roberge, the state specialist in forest resources with the UNH Cooperative Extension, said trees are meant to make up the landscape for a long time. That means the state forests can handle extremes like last year’s drought and this year’s heavy rains.

“They all have different strategies on how to deal with that,” Roberge said. “An extreme summer like this is something they can totally handle.”

While last year’s grow rings might show the signs of drought stress, Roberge said when trees are taken down in the future this year will likely show solid growth.

“You will definitely see a response to that,” he said.

There is a concern with all the moisture that fungal problems can present, but that usually happens when trees have other issues, Roberge said. What the rain did do was replenish the water storage in fallen trees and logs on the ground that are resources for animals.

Roberge said each year is different, so all the rain won’t make up for the stress caused by last year’s drought. He said trees need a mixture of sunlight and moisture to thrive.

He likes to remind people that the state was in a drought heading into the summer, even though “July came and made people forget about it.”

For those wondering how the wet weather will affect foliage season, Roberge said he hasn’t seen any indication that it will impact the bright colors people travel far and wide to see.

He said the extreme weather conditions are just the reality of climate change.

Roberge said big flashy rainstorms don’t actually stay in the system for very long because of runoff, so lighter, more prolonged rain events are better for capturing the moisture.

What the rain did do was wipe out some of the concern for forest fires, Roberge said.

As far as what this will all mean for snow this winter? Jamison said the wet summer won’t play a role in predicting winter precipitation. That is generally forecasted based on the strength of the La Nina weather pattern that occurs in the Pacific Ocean. The only hope is that there isn’t a month like July when the precipitation is falling as snow.




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