‘Localized’ rain brings multitude of issues

Jul. 22, 2014 @ 05:39 PM

By official records, this July has been rainy. The National Weather Service in Raleigh has recorded 6.98 inches of rain so far this month – 3.84 inches above average.

But depending on where you are in the Triangle, that 6.98 inches of rain might not have hit you, or you could have received more.
National Weather Service meteorologists describe rainfall like that as “localized.” Pockets of heavy rain can fall at one part of the city, and then on the other half there could be none.
“There was just a pocket of very heavy rain, over and just south of downtown. That’s why the flooding was just localized there,” Nick Petro, meteorologist from the Weather Service, said. “It’s not unusual with the rainfall situation.”
In 2013, only 1.85 inches of rain fell during the entire month of July, according to National Weather Service records.
The heavier amount of rainfall, though, is not that far out of line with the norms, Petro said. “Even though rainfall amounts are above normal, this is not unusual for July,” he said.
Across Durham County, between 2.45 and 4 inches of rainfall were recorded Monday. At the Raleigh-Durham International airport, 1.16 inches of rain were recorded. A volunteer for the Weather Service collected just over 4 inches of rain close to the Southpoint area.
Some of the damage caused by Monday’s pockets of heavy rains is continuing to disrupt businesses. A leak in the ceiling of the American Tobacco YMCA has shut it down for the week. Greg Lee, branch communication director with the Durham YMCA, said the American Tobacco YMCA experienced “substantial flooding.” The flooding was so significant that it leaked into electrical areas of the branch.
“We lost our network, our phones, that kind of stuff,” Lee said. “It got passed just being on the floor.”
Lee said the branch hopes to be open by the beginning of next week. Until then a modified group exercise list has been made available. He also said that anyone that is a member of the YMCA can use any Durham facilities while the American Tobacco branch is being repaired.
“It’s not something we’ve ever had happen before,” Lee said.
Businesses aren’t the only ones suffering from the rain. Triangle area farmers have mixed reactions to the rain because of its localized nature.
Mark Waller, of Waller Family Farms in Durham, said he’s only received about 3 inches of rain since June. So the rain when it comes is a “blessing.”
“We’ve had one hefty rain since the first of June,” Waller said. “That’s kind of scarce.”
Just 20 miles away from him on the Durham-Wake county line, Danny Page’s fields have been soaked. 
“We’ve had 7 inches here,” he said. “We’ve had a whole lot of the land wash.”
Land wash is when top soil gets carried from one part of the farm, usually the top of a hill, down to a creek-like area.
“(When you) lose the top soil, you have to try and build it back up,” Page said.
Rain and flooding that creates land wash can also deter normal farm work.
“It slows you down from doing some of the other farm work,” Page said. “It holds you up some of the times. You can’t get back in the field and working the land.”
Another system of storms is set to move into the Triangle.
“That definitely helps set the stage for (more) flooding,” meteorologist Petro said. He was confidant that unless heavy thunderstorms from the coast made their way to the area flooding would hold off for a day or two.
“But that doesn’t take us out of the concern for the rest of the week,” Petro said.  As we close in on Thursday, he said, there is potential once again for urban flooding and possible localized damaging winds. Today there will be a chance of thunderstorms before 8 p.m. with a 40 percent chance of precipitation.
Thursday brings in a 50 percent chance of precipitation, with new rainfall amounts between a 10th and a quarter of an inch. However, if a thunderstorm develops, heavier amounts could fall.