Wetter-than-normal year in Pittsburgh region to get worse

Rain, rain, go away, come again ... oh, forget it

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It's raining, it's pouring, and it's never going to end.

At least not until July.

An already wetter-than-normal year is only going to get worse, says National Weather Service meteorologist John Darnley.

This week's forecast of steady showers is a precipitation pattern that will continue for the next couple of months, according to the National Weather Service's three-month weather outlook.

Mr. Darnley said Pittsburghers can expect a cool and wet summer, with above-average precipitation and below-average temperatures.

"Welcome to Pittsburgh," he said.

The long-term prediction of gloomy, wet skies is just a matter of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

"[Pittsburgh is] kind of where the heart of the storm tracks are," National Weather Service meteorologist Fred McMullen said.

The storm tracks, or jet streams that carry low pressure systems, are currently situated across the Ohio Valley, meaning the storms "come right over top of us," Mr. McMullen said.

While Pittsburgh is no stranger to wet and rainy weather -- April only had eight dry days -- this year has been wetter than usual.

Since the beginning of the year, Pittsburgh has gotten more precipitation than usual, with 20.7 inches. The normal amount is closer to 13 inches.

So far, May has seen 3.2 inches, about twice the normal amount. And if it continues to rain at the same pace -- with showers predicted for the next five days, it seems likely -- this month could break the record for highest rainfall for May.

According to the National Weather Service, 1858 is the year to beat: 6.6 inches of rain fell in May of that year. More recently, the area got 6.56 inches of rain in May 1989.

While the extra rain could make this May a record-setter, it also has been a detriment to Pennsylvania Department of Transportation crews and other businesses that need sunshine.

"We've had a wet spring already, and while we're frustrated, works continue to progress," said PennDOT spokesman Jim Struzzi.

He said the weather has postponed several construction projects, especially anything that involves concrete, which can't dry in rainy weather.

But the real danger is in the soil.

"[The weather] does create challenges for us on the maintenance side for us because there are more landslides," Mr. Struzzi said, adding that this year has had an above-average amount of slides.

A rock slide that closed Route 88 in East Bethlehem, Washington County, over the weekend is just one of the mud and rock slides PennDOT has encountered.

But there's one thing Pittsburgh shouldn't have to worry about -- flooding.

"The Ohio River is rising, but not expected to reach any type of flood stage," Mr. Darnley said.

Ultimately, though, the forecast remains only that -- a prediction. And for some, a prediction they can benefit from.

Kennywood spokesman Jeff Filicko said that while bad weather can thin the crowds at the amusement park, those who take a gamble and go anyway can benefit, especially when the meteorologists are wrong. The West Mifflin park has been open on weekends since May 7 and opens daily on Thursday.

But when they're right, Mr. Filicko said, optimism is key to boosting crowd morale during rainy weather, choosing to refer to those pesky drops of water as "liquid sunshine."

And while "liquid sunshine" is just as wet as rain, "at the very least it helps [people] crack a smile," Mr. Filicko said.

Olivia Garber: ogarber@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1985. First Published May 17, 2011 4:00 AM


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