December 2, 2021

Weary of the wet weather

But more rain is in the forecast, and the potential for flooding is high

Todd R. McAdam/managing editor

Katie Reagan, of Cortland, was well-prepared for a thunderstorm Tuesday night as she walked on Main Street in Cortland. The area has seen nearly 11 inches of rain since June 1, about 4 inches more than normal, the National Weather Service reports.

The cut hay is rotting in the field; over-watered crops mean lower yields, weather experts recommend you have an evacuation plan if you live in flood prone areas and you can’t mow your lawn fast enough before rain sends the grass past your ankles.

As of Wednesday, Cortland has received 11.77 inches of rain since June 1 — 4.77 inches more than normal, reports the National Weather Service in Binghamton. More is on the way in the coming weeks.

That could have serious consequences, said Amanda Barber, manager of the Cortland County Soil and Water Conservation District.

“The water table is up, the river is up, the soils are saturated,” Barber said. “Any time we have a storm and our soils are already saturated, none of that water can be absorbed. It’ll run off and add to higher flows in our streams.”

Although the rivers will likely stay below the flood stage, as runoff adds to the streams, creeks and tributaries, Cortland County is going to be more subject to flash flooding and flooding of smaller streams and tributaries, said National Weather Service meteorologist Mitchell Gaines.

“The main message for residents is that it’s not going to take a whole lot of rainfall to cause some pretty significant problems,” Gaines said. “I want to make sure that everybody is alert, especially in the next few weeks here we’re going to have heavy rain, and we’re already prone to having some flooding problems.”

If you live in an area that floods frequently, Gaines advises that you have a plan to get to higher ground, prepare your home for potential flooding, and always have a backup route when traveling through flood zones.

Even without flooding, the increased rainfall has already affected residents and businesses alike.

Joan Franklin, of Scott, is losing money on the produce she would normally sell at the Cortland Farmers Market. Overwatered plants don’t grow as well, she said, so she’s only bringing in a fraction of the harvest this month.

“The yield on everything is down. It’s been slower getting the plants to grow to take to market,” Franklin said. “Usually we have a lot of stuff, but now the only thing I think will be on time is the sweet corn, which ought to be ready in a couple of weeks.”

Everything else has been so waterlogged that her plants lack the ideal healthy, green color, and are yellowing instead, she said. “It’s been a really tough year.”

She and her husband also grow hay to sell to other farmers, but the weather might have ruined their current batch.

“Our concern right now is that our grains are ready and they might go to seed before we can get to them. Once they sprout, they aren’t worth anything,” Franklin said. “It’s going to take three or four days to dry the fields out before we can even go in and mow them — you can’t have that hay laying out wet, because it just won’t dry. The fields are so saturated, you drive across and you’re just mowing water.”

Franklin said this year’s cold, dry spring and hot, rainy summer has been a big challenge for farmers and gardeners.

“In the beginning, it was too dry, and putting in plants you’d have to water them and I can’t water that much, so it put everything behind and went straight from dry to wet and the plants suffered from it,” she said. “In some of my garden, the pouring rain washed off a lot of the fertilizer in there, so the plants just don’t look as healthy as they should.”

“We talk about climate change, and it’s these sort of dramatic changes that we’re seeing,” Barber said. “It’s great one day and horrible the next, going from 81 degrees one day to 30 the next, flash floods and intense rainstorms. Everything is much more dramatic, nothing seems to be predictable anymore.”