Tuesday, August 14, 2001

Why all this rain? Nature's foibles

By Randy McNutt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Blame it on a thick atmosphere — or on the bossa nova. There are a number of possible reasons why so much rain has fallen in the Tristate this summer, including Old Man Weather himself.

        He can't seem to remember that this is summer, not spring, sending “efficient” storms that dump large amounts of rain in a small amount of time while skipping around the Tristate.

        “It's just been one of those times,” said Greg Tipton, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Wilmington, Ohio. “When we've had thunderstorms, they've been very efficient because we've had so much moisture in the atmosphere.

        “Sometimes you can see thunderstorms at a distance, especially in the spring and fall. You couldn't do that this summer. The atmosphere has been too thick.”

        Take Saturday's storm. It flooded cars at the ATP in Mason and sent people scrambling in other places, while leaving many Tristate communities with nothing but a few sprinkles and a lightning show.

        “There really is no reason,” said Mr. Tipton. “Thunderstorms, for the most part, don't happen in random ... in the fall/winter season, we get widespread rain. When we get into spring and summer, the rain can be more localized.”

        Areas hit hard included Middletown, Mason and Cleves.

        “We had mostly flooded streets,” said Sgt. Harry Arnold of the Cleves Police Department. “A drainage ditch overflowed. It got pretty hairy around here for a while on Saturday night.”

        In Middletown, an esti mated three inches of rain fell about 6-8 p.m. A flash flood at an underpass engulfed a Joint Emergency Medical Service ambulance from Franklin that was going to Middletown Regional Hospital. The patient was removed and taken to the hospital in another vehicle.

        In Mason, some fans found their cars in deep water when they left the ATP Tennis Center at Kings Island.

        Paul Flory, chairman of the Tennis Masters Series Cincinnati, estimated 30 to 40 cars had water damage. He said there was no damage to the courts.

        “We're above average for rainfall for each month so far this year,” said Mr. Tipton of the weather service. “We had the fifth-wettest July on record, which dates to the late 1800s. It's unusual, but it's something we should expect. We are going to have these wet periods. They occur at different times of the year. This type of rainfall we usually expect in the springtime.”

        The worst rains hit July 18-19, when deadly thunderstorms ripped through Greater Cincinnati. They flooded basements, cars and back yards. The storm system first hit Butler, Warren and Clermont counties from 8 to 11 p.m. The area still is dealing with the impact.

        “In July, we were locked into a favorable pattern that helped the thunderstorms focus on our area,” Mr. Tipton said. “A maximum area of precipitation occurred from Indianapolis to Jackson, Ky. The heaviest thunderstorms developed more often in this area.

        “We run into this in the weather business where we get stuck in a pattern. It just happens. It was long enough and persistent enough to cause some major trouble.”

        Enquirer reporter Earnest Winston contributed.



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