Our reservoirs runneth over.
To most people the rain that has drenched the area for the past several days has meant delayed travel, wet clothes and dark, forbidding skies. But when August and September roll around the rains of May could be a fond memory.
Last summer water supplies in the area became dangerously low during the summer and early fall, with the Occoquan Reservoir falling to a record low in August.
Yesterday, the reservoir was overflowing and the gates were opened to allow excess water out. The same was true at the Triadelphia and Rocky Gorge reservoirs in Maryland, and local officials said the area should have no serious water supply problems this summer, thanks to the May rains.
"What all this rain has done is given us full reservoirs and an excellent water table level," said Tim Beacham, the control center engineer in charge of reservoir water distribution for the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission. "If we get any kind of rain this summer, we won't have any problem."
As of 2 p.m. yesterday, 4.86 inches of rain had fallen in this area during the first 16 days of May. That figure was expected to climb above five inches by midnight, with more rain expected today. The normal rainfall for the entire month of May is 3.68 inches.
"The water was about a foot-and-a-half over the top of dam this morning and should go a little higher," said Jim Warfield of the Fairfax County Water Authority. "Actually, the water level in the reservoir isn't that much higher than last year, but the ground is much wetter. That means when we do get rain this summer we'll get runoff. We didn't get that last summer."
Warfield said it was much too early to "completely rule out the possibility of problems," but he added that on May 1 the county had calculated that, based on past surveys, the chances were 1 in 8 that voluntary water restriction would be necessary. "Now the chances of problems are even less," Warfield said.
In the meantime though, things will get wetter before they get drier. The National Weather Service foresees more rain today with the possiblity of clearing by tomorrow, to be followed by a nice weekend.
"We just got caught under a stalled low pressure system," forecaster Harold Hess said yesterday. "The system moved in over central Virginia on Saturday and stayed there, which is unusual. We just got a bad break in that sense."
Hess said that by the time the weather breaks more than 3 inches of rain will have fallen since the system moved into the area. The steady flow of rain has not caused any serious flooding but has caused some other problems.
The Potomac River was overflowing its banks slightly at Roosevelt Island yesterday afternoon and was extremely high at East Potomac Park. At the Little Falls measuring station the water level crept above 9 feet - less than a foot from the 10 foot flood level.
"Of course we'd have to get a couple of feet above flood level before we had any real problems," George Rodericks, director of the D.C. Office of Emergency Preparedness, explained. "We're still monitoring up and down the river, but we don't expect any serious trouble."
The water level is high enough, howeer, that the weather service has put out advisory warnings to the effect that the river may be hazardous for recreational boating upstream from Washington.
The rain has created numerous little floods, in basements of low-lying homes, for example, and there is a good deal of standing water in side streets in Washington and the suburbs. Some streets have been closed for brief periods, but all major arteries have remained open.
Traffic at rush hour yesterday was described as "extremely slow" and "stalled" throughout the area.
But while the rain has made for a miserable May, its long-range effects should be positive. C rops planted this time of year should not be affected negatively, according to agricultural reports, unless the land they are on has poor drainage.
And if you think the rain this month has been bad, you should have been around in 1898 or 1983. In those years the rainfall for the month of May was 10.69 inches.
So enjoy the drought.