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Steady rain soaks county; drought watch status may be brief

Kim Dleozier tests how deep the mud is as she walks the track with a teammate from Fighting Flockers during the Happy Valley Relay for Life at the Grange Fairgrounds on Saturday. Grange ground crew members laid down stone in some areas after the soaking rains created mud puddles.
Kim Dleozier tests how deep the mud is as she walks the track with a teammate from Fighting Flockers during the Happy Valley Relay for Life at the Grange Fairgrounds on Saturday. Grange ground crew members laid down stone in some areas after the soaking rains created mud puddles. CDT photo

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection put Centre County on a drought watch last week.

It didn’t feel like that Saturday as daylong rain drenched the county.

The possible record-breaking rainfall also curiously came and went without reports of flooding. Areas notoriously known for flooding during quick, torrential downpours went unscathed.

“That’s probably because of the rainfall rate,” National Weather Service meteorologist Shane Kearns said. “The rain has been falling over a long period, 10 to 15 hours. We didn’t get a heavy rain at any point. It was moderate and allowed the ground to absorb the rain, so there wasn’t any flash flooding event.”

Despite the lack of flooding, a record for rainfall on June 27 in State College may have been set. The record for the day was set in 1970 at 2.04 inches, but the NWS can’t confirm Saturday’s rainfall total until Sunday.

Kearns said reports in the region indicated about 1.5 inches of rain fell to the east of State College and 2.5 inches to the west by the evening. He added that another tenth to two-tenths inches of rain could fall Saturday night. The NWS predicted that the county would get 2.7 inches.

Saturday’s dreary weather was caused by an area of low pressure that slowly moved up the Ohio Valley and across Pennsylvania.

The DEP put the county under a drought watch June 17, because a “very dry fall and below-normal precipitation from January to May continues to contribute to low groundwater and surface water levels,” according press release.

There are 36 other counties on the state’s drought watch list, which is the least severe level of the state's three drought classifications and calls for a voluntary 5 percent reduction in non-essential water use. It also puts large water consumers on notice to plan for the possibility of reduced water supplies.

The month of June, which averages 3.96 inches of rain each year according to the Penn State meteorology department’s data, may make up for the rest of this year’s unusually dry weather. The State College area had 5.11 inches of rain before Saturday.

The type of rainfall, however, matters to getting the county off the drought watch list.

“Many counties, including some under drought watch, have recently had rapid, heavy rain events,” the press release said. “These rain events cause erosion and typically do not improve conditions for groundwater and soil moisture.”

Saturday’s rain may not have caused erosion like shorter bursts of precipitation.

“I would think a nice steady rain like today’s would definitely help more than a quick downpour,” Kearns said.

He added there may be showers Sunday and that Monday would be dry and sunny.

There are thunderstorms forecast for Tuesday, the last day of June, which would give a final boost to the month’s rain total.

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