Capital Region

Rainfall totals up across Capital Region this summer

STAN HUDY/THE DAILY GAZETTEWater flows at an alarming rate through Lock 9 on the Mohawk River Monday afternoon after heavy rainfall has raised the water levels significantly over the past few weeks. July 19, 2021.
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STAN HUDY/THE DAILY GAZETTE
Water flows at an alarming rate through Lock 9 on the Mohawk River Monday afternoon after heavy rainfall has raised the water levels significantly over the past few weeks. July 19, 2021.

Counties across the Capital Region have seen rainfall totals in the last month reach between 3 and 6 inches higher than the 30-year average rainfall for June and July, according to weather experts.

However, the rainfall looks to be slowing down over the coming week, according to meteorologist Michael Main at the National Weather Service in Albany.

“As of right now, we’re not expecting anything like we saw last week,” Main said Monday. “Some dryer weather looks to be in the forecast.”

“[The] past 7-days percent of normal precipitation map indicates most of the area is 200% to 600% of normal,” the National Weather Service Albany tweeted this morning.

The area hit with the highest rainfall total was Rensselaer County near the New York and Massachusetts border, while Schenectady, Montgomery, and southern Fulton County had the lowest rainfall totals, Main said.

Tropical Storm Elsa brought the heavy rainfall, Main said, along with a series of other slow moving thunderstorms that have lingered over the Capital Region for a while, dumping a lot of rain on the same area.

“This is more about the current weather pattern we’re in,” Main said. The service would need a larger sample size to determine whether or not the current pattern is related to climate change.

Many peoples’ everyday lives have been impacted by the abnormally heavy rainfall in recent weeks, including the livelihoods of farmers and mariners.

The increased precipitation has made harvesting hay and fertilizing crops such as corn difficult, since the fields have been too wet to work in, according to Erik Smith, an area field crop specialist at Cornell Cooperative Extension.. In addition, some winter crops like wheat and barley were on track for a record harvest year, Smith said, but the weather delayed farmers’ ability to harvest those crops on time. The delayed harvest will negatively impact both the quality and the quantity of wheat and barley harvests this year, he said.

“There’s not a whole lot you can do, especially if it comes to the field itself not becoming dry enough,” he said.

Though there isn’t a lot farmers can do right now for this summer season’s crops, farmers can take some precautions over the winter to better equip themselves for another potentially rainy summer, Smith said. Those precautions might include improving drainage systems on the fields, or applying a fungicide to protect crops such as soybeans and corn from diseases caused by the wet weather, he explained.

Local mariners too have had to deal with a series of lock closures on the Erie Canal recently.

“Because of the significant amount of rainfall over the past few weeks, the conditions on the canal have become such that it is now unsafe for boating,” said Shane Mahar, spokesperson for the New York State Canal Corporation.

Monday morning the canal corporation closed between lock E-2 in Waterford and lock E-19 in Frankfort because of the higher water levels. Other locks in the area were also closed last week from Monday through Friday because of the heavy rainfall, high flows, and floating debris, Mahar said.

Changes in elevation in the Mohawk Valley and currents in the Mohawk River cause water levels to rise and fall quickly along the Capital Region portion of the canal, Mahar said.

“We don’t expect this closure of the canal system to be long-term,” Mahar said. “[It was] out of an abundance of caution, and for [everybody’s] safety.”

Atypical temperatures for the summer months have also accompanied the abnormally high rainfall amounts over the past few weeks. “We have seen temperatures slightly below normal over the past couple weeks,” said Main.

Weekend temperatures were 10 degrees below average over the 4th of July weekend, and between 8 and 9 degrees below average over the past two weekends, Main said.

The state Thruway Authority reported the I-90 off-ramps were closed in both directions (eastbound and westbound) at Exit 28 (Route 30A) in the Village of Fultonville, Montgomery County due to flooding.

Tuesday and Wednesday the National Weather Service projects sunny and highs in the 80s Tuesday with a chance of evening showers and thunderstorms with evening lows Tuesday in the 50s and 60s. Wednesday is expected to be a bit cooler, in the 70s, with a 50 percent chance of rain.

 

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